Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is the victim of a politically driven smear campaign as allegations about sexual harassment and remarks he reportedly made about Adolf Hitler dog him in the final days of his California gubernatorial campaign.
"This is the last four days [of my campaign] and people are attacking me with the women stuff, attack me with the Hitler stuff, anything they can find," Schwarzenegger told KABC-TV on his campaign tour bus today. Schwarzenegger did not point the finger at a specific group or opponent, but said he had no doubt that the intent was to terminate his gubernatorial bid.
"I only guess it is to destroy my campaign," he said. "And people have been paid, people have been encouraged to do that. I have no idea. This is my first political campaign."
Part of the controversy surrounding Schwarzenegger stems from claims that he made statements in the 1970s professing admiration for Hitler. ABCNEWS has obtained a copy of an unpublished book proposal with quotes from what was called a "verbatim transcript" of an interview Schwarzenegger gave in 1975 while making the film Pumping Iron.
Asked who his heroes were, he was quoted as saying, "I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."
The book proposal also quoted Schwarzenegger as saying he wished he could have an experience "like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium. And have all those people scream at you and just being total agreement whatever you say."
The author of the book proposal, Pumping Iron's director, George Butler, told ABCNEWS that the quotes needed to be seen in the context of Schwarzenegger's admiration of powerful men, and that he never said anything anti-Semitic.
In a statement circulated late Friday by the Schwarzenegger campaign, Butler said he might have written the proposal from inaccurate notes. He said a "closer reading" of what he believes is an original transcript of the 1975 interview shows that Schwarzenegger actually said: "I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn't admire him for what he did with it."
Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Rob Stutzman said campaign officials had spoken with Butler in recent days, but said they did not pressure him to release a statement.
Schwarzenegger Says He Has No Memory of the Remarks
The story broke Thursday night as Schwarzenegger kicked off his bus tour of California — an event that was supposed to be the crescendo of his campaign leading up to the Oct. 7 recall election.
Shortly after the story surfaced, Schwarzenegger said he didn't recall making the remarks, but said he has no admiration for Hitler or the Nazis.
"I cannot remember any of this, all I can tell you is that I despise anything that Hitler stood for," he said. "I despise anything what the Nazis stood for … anything that the Third Reich stood for. Anything that they've done, the atrocities that they've created … and this is why for many many years I've been fighting against prejudice.
He said he has given "millions of dollars" to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and called Wiesenthal "one of my heroes … because he always preaches justice."
Later Thursday evening, at a news conference with wife Maria Shriver at his side, he repeated the denial.
"I don't remember any of those comments because I always despise everything that Hitler stood for," Schwarzenegger said, calling the Nazi leader a "disgusting villain."
This is not the first time Schwarzenegger has had apparently pro-Nazi remarks come back to haunt him. Last week he was reminded of a toast he gave to Austrian President Kurt Waldheim at his wedding. At the time Schwarzenegger gave the toast, it had just been exposed that Waldheim had committed Nazi war crimes.
"That was a mistake, and I know but we can grow and it's always easy to be smart in hindsight," the actor-turned-candidate said.
There have also been a growing number of allegations about Schwarzenegger mistreating women.
A front-page story in Thursday's Los Angeles Times, California's largest newspaper, quoted six women who claim Schwarzenegger groped or made sexually offensive remarks to them. One woman told ABCNEWS she encountered Schwarzenegger in the 1970s when he was a bodybuilder.
"The gym was quite full and Arnold was there and I remember him passing by me and groping my breast," E. Laine Stockon told ABCNEWS. "And I was just in sheer shock."
Today, another woman, Colette Brooks — who was surrounded by Democratic activists — came forward publicly and told reporters Schwarzenegger grabbed her buttocks 22 years ago when she was a young TV intern.
Of the six women who spoke to The Los Angeles Times, four would not give their names. One claimed that 20 years ago, Schwarzenegger "grabbed and squeezed" her left breast. She told the newspaper she "just started crying and crying." She said he did not rape her, but he humiliated her.
The Los Angeles Times also quoted a woman, who asked not to be named, and worked on the movie Terminator 2, who claimed Schwarzenegger "would pin me against the corner of the elevator" and try to pull off the straps of her bathing suit.
He confronted the allegations directly Thursday. "I have done things that at the time I thought then was playful but now I recognize that I have offended people. And those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize."
On the heels of the recent allegations, a new TV ad attacking Schwarzenegger and urging California voters to vote against the recall is set to hit the airwaves this weekend. The ad is sponsored by Moveon.org, an Internet-based political action committee that backs progressive candidates, and other organizations opposed to the recall.
"If you're a woman … or your mother is a woman, you cannot vote for this man," the commercial says in part. "Because Arnold Schwarzenegger has a serious problem with women. … Every woman and every man should vote no on the recall."
Wife Comes to Terminator’s Defense
At a speech before the California Women's Leadership Association in Newport Beach, Shriver came to her husband's defense, telling the audience, "You can listen to all the negativity or you can listen to me." When asked by reporters about the recent allegations, she said, "I don't believe in gutter politics and I don't believe in gutter journalism."
Gov. Gray Davis, the man Schwarzenegger is hoping to replace as governor, tried to capitalize on the allegations against his gubernatorial opponent.
"The information about the conduct and the beliefs of Arnold Schwarzenegger raises serious questions about his ability to govern," he said in a speech today.
ABCNEWS' Linda Douglass and Brian Rooney contributed to this report.