The US: Arnold Schwarzenegger planned a four-day triumphal ride through California as the climax of his campaign to become governor, but for the second day yesterday he found himself on the defensive over his past. Following allegations of sexual harassment against women, he has now been accused of praising Adolf Hitler, something which he said he does not recall.
ABC News and the New York Times obtained a copy of an unpublished book proposal with quotes from a "verbatim" transcript of an interview Mr Schwarzenegger gave in 1975 while making the documentary Pumping Iron.
He said, "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." He also allegedly said he wished he could have "the feeling like Kennedy had, you know, to speak to maybe 50,000 people at one time and having them cheer, or like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium and have all those people scream at you and just being in total agreement with whatever you say." The author of the book proposal, Pumping Iron director George Butler, told the New York Times Mr Schwarzenegger played Nazi marches and mimicked SS officers.
Mr Schwarzenegger responded, "I don't remember ever having said any of those things because I despise Hitler and despise Nazis, I have been supporting the Simon Wiesenthal Centre." The Austrian born actor, whose father was a Nazi Party member, received an award in 1977 from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which combats anti-Semitism, for his "generous involvement in numerous charities and leadership programs".
Last week he was reminded of a toast he gave to Austrian President Kurt Waldheim at his wedding, just after Mr Waldheim had been implicated in Nazi war crimes.
Thursday's Los Angeles Times ran a series of allegations about Mr Schwarzenegger groping and humiliating women. The Republican candidate apologised, saying to anyone he offended: "I am deeply sorry about that and I apologise." The Swarzenegger camp turned the allegations into a huge advantage yesterday when networks tuned into a luncheon speech by Maria Shriver, Mr Schwarzenegger's wife and niece of President John F Kennedy, to see how she would address the sex issue.
What they got was a half hour impassioned and forceful promotion of her husband of 17 years. She listed the best things about him, starting with "what attracted me even more than the body was how incredibly smart this man is." "You can listen to all the negativity . . . or you can listen to me," said Ms Shriver, a former top NBC journalist. "I wouldn't have left my job if I didn't believe in this man." Democratic governor Gray Davis said that the Hitler allegations raised serious questions about Mr Schwarzenegger's ability to govern the state. If true "his personal behaviour is unacceptable and his praise of Adolf Hitler unconscionable.
"I am prepared to say that anyone who says they admire Hitler shocks the public conscience, because there's nothing about Hitler that warrants admiration, nothing at all." A new TV advertisement attacking Mr Schwarzenegger is being broadcast this weekend sponsored by a progressive Internet action committee, moveon.org.
A new Field Poll taken before the allegations surfaced showed a majority of 57 per cent favouring the recall of Mr Davis and Mr Schwarzenegger leading the pack of replacement candidates with 36 per cent, compared to 26 percent for Democratic Cruz Bustamante.