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THE RECALL CAMPAIGN

Davis Seizes on Reports About Schwarzenegger

The governor says allegations of sexual misconduct and admiration for Hitler, if true, cast doubt on his fitness to run the state.

October 04, 2003|Peter Nicholas, Gregg Jones and Michael Finnegan | Times Staff Writers

As Republicans pressed the case for Gray Davis' removal, the governor on Friday said dual allegations that Arnold Schwarzenegger engaged in sexual misconduct and once expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler cast doubt on the actor's fitness for the state's highest public office.

For the second day, the accusations diverted Schwarzenegger from his chosen campaign themes as he rode northward on a four-day bus trip from San Diego to Sacramento.

After apologizing Thursday for having "behaved badly" toward women in incidents that he saw as "playful" at the time, the Austrian-born candidate said Friday that he could not imagine making admiring comments about Hitler.

The comments, allegedly made in the 1970s, were included in an unpublished book proposal made public Thursday night.

"I have always despised everything that Hitler stands for," said Schwarzenegger, a longtime benefactor of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

"And with the history of my country, Germany, Austria were all part of it. That's why I'm very adamant for the fight against prejudice and to never let that happen again."

The author of the book proposal, documentary producer George Butler, released a statement Friday saying the comments attributed to Schwarzenegger were "not in context and not even strictly accurate."

Davis, a Democrat who could lose his job in Tuesday's recall election, on Friday reversed his initially cautious approach to the accusations that have thrown Schwarzenegger's campaign into turmoil.

At a campaign rally in Long Beach, Davis brought up the complaints by several women that Schwarzenegger had touched them sexually without their consent -- as reported Thursday by The Times -- and the disputed Hitler remarks.

"If true, his personal behavior was disturbing and unacceptable and his professed admiration for Adolf Hitler unconscionable," Davis said.

The allegations also led to new attacks on Schwarzenegger by two rivals in the race to replace Davis: Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat, and state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks). They are among 135 candidates on the ballot to succeed Davis if a majority of voters opts to recall the governor.

"If the allegations are true, I believe he is morally unfit to hold public office," said McClintock, who added that he was highly skeptical of last-minute campaign attacks.

A Field Poll released Friday, meanwhile, confirmed that Schwarzenegger has emerged as the clear front-runner in the gubernatorial replacement race. The poll, taken before the allegations came to dominate the campaign, showed the recall itself also winning handily.

Schwarzenegger's alleged remarks about Hitler came in a 1975 interview he reportedly gave while making "Pumping Iron," a documentary on bodybuilding.

Butler, the film's producer, released a transcript Friday quoting Schwarzenegger as saying: "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 for his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn't admire him for what he did with it."

In an interview with The Times two months ago, Butler had denied Schwarzenegger made those remarks.

Schwarzenegger, followed by an international media entourage Friday on the second day of his "California Comeback Express" bus tour, sought to shift the campaign's focus back to topics more favorable to his candidacy. He railed against the tripling of the state's car tax and vowed to cut the soaring costs that employers pay to insure workers against injuries on the job.

"I always remind myself I got into this race because I could no longer stand by and watch the politicians of Sacramento not doing anything for the people, neglecting the people," Schwarzenegger told supporters at a morning rally in Arcadia, northeast of Los Angeles.

Politicians "tear this state down, tear the economy down, chase business out of the state and chase jobs out of the state, and now it's time we chase Gray Davis out of Sacramento," he told the cheering crowd.

But he also defended his candidacy.

"They try to tear your character down and everything you stand for," Schwarzenegger told 2,000 supporters at the Arcadia rally. "And let me tell you something: They have already begun, but I will stay focused. I will always stay focused, because the fight continues."

Later, at a diner in Gorman, where he ate a club sandwich and potato salad, Schwarzenegger told a reporter: "My whole life, I always had my blinders on to shoot for the goal.

"Have you seen the crowds?" he asked. "It gets bigger and bigger and bigger."

Indeed, many of his supporters seemed to brush aside the accusations. In a visit to a building materials company in Santa Clarita, a woman shouted: "He can grope me!"

Aides said Schwarzenegger had nothing further to say about his blanket apology to anyone he might have offended.

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