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Producer Clarifies Quotes on Hitler

October 04, 2003|James Bates and Mitchell Landsberg | Times Staff Writers

A documentary film producer said Friday that comments he had attributed to Arnold Schwarzenegger expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler were taken out of context, and that the actor actually disparaged the Nazi leader for using power "in the wrong way."

The statement issued by George Butler, who produced the film "Pumping Iron" in 1977, appeared intended to correct the record and to defuse a potentially explosive issue in the California gubernatorial race. Several other people associated with the film also said Schwarzenegger never expressed Nazi sympathies but may have expressed admiration for Hitler's charisma and rise to power.

Schwarzenegger himself said Friday that he "cannot imagine" having ever praised Hitler, and that the Nazi legacy in his native Austria had made him "very adamant to fight against prejudice. And to never let that happen again.... To be tolerant, to be inclusive."

The controversy was sparked by purported comments about Hitler published in the New York Times on Friday and cited by ABC News late Thursday. According to the New York Times, they came from a proposal for a book on Schwarzenegger from Butler six years ago. In it, Butler quotes Schwarzenegger as saying he admired Hitler "for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 05, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 99 words Type of Material: Correction
Views on Hitler -- An article in Saturday's Section A incompletely described efforts by the New York Times to correct a story that stated Arnold Schwarzenegger once spoke admiringly of Adolf Hitler. The New York Times article was published in early editions of that newspaper but was corrected in late editions and on the paper's Web site to include a more complete version of Schwarzenegger's remarks, in which he said he did not approve of the way in which Hitler used his power. The Los Angeles Times reported only that the article was corrected on the paper's Web site.

The New York Times also said that in the book proposal and a subsequent interview, Butler said Schwarzenegger used to play "Nazi marching songs" and "frequently clicked his heels and pretended to be an SS officer."

The reports sparked a furor. Some Jewish leaders and political figures strongly criticized Schwarzenegger, in some cases calling for him to drop out of the gubernatorial race.

Butler issued a statement Friday in which he said the quotation about Hitler was inaccurate. He provided what he said was a more accurate version of Schwarzenegger's statement:

"I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn't admire him for what he did with it.

"It's very hard to say who I admired and who are my heroes. And I admire basically people who are powerful people, like [President] Kennedy. Who people listened to and just wait until he comes out with telling them what to do. People like that I admire a lot."

In his statement, Butler also said: "I have never witnessed or heard of Schwarzenegger making any remarks that might be offensive to anyone of the Jewish faith."

Butler has known Schwarzenegger for more than 30 years, having met him in the early 1970s while he was gathering material for a book about bodybuilders. The book eventually led Butler to make the movie "Pumping Iron," which explored the world of bodybuilding contests, focusing especially on Schwarzenegger.

In making the movie, the filmmakers shot hours of interviews with Schwarzenegger. Much of this material did not make it into the final cut. The statements about Hitler are from outtakes, Butler said. Schwarzenegger bought the outtakes in the early 1990s.

Late Friday, a Schwarzenegger campaign official gave the Los Angeles Times a copy of what he said was Butler's transcript of the interviews for "Pumping Iron." It includes the quotations cited by Butler.

A review of it shows that Schwarzenegger disparaged Nazi leaders but also said that in order to create a strong country, "you cannot let everybody be an individual."

It also shows that one of the more controversial statements quoted in the New York Times -- in which Schwarzenegger says he wished he could experience the feeling Hitler had at his famous speech at Nuremberg -- came in response to a question from the interviewer who asked whether winning a bodybuilding contest was anything like Hitler felt "when the whole stadium at Nuremberg is chanting."

Butler's statement said his book proposal, which he eventually withdrew, "contained a prominent disclaimer" warning that the statements it quoted "should not be taken as fact until verified." He added that the remarks he ascribed to Schwarzenegger may have been based on inaccurate notes.

Jim Roberts, national editor of the New York Times, declined to say whether the documents reviewed by the newspaper contained a disclaimer. "I will say that the stuff that we used in the paper was material we had either verified with Butler himself or others who were present at the filming," he said.

After learning from Butler on Friday that the Hitler quotation was inaccurate, the New York Times amended its story on its Web site.

Butler did not return several phone calls to his offices in New York and New Hampshire on Friday.

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