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Schwarzenegger disputes alleged pro-Hitler quote

'I despise everything that the Nazis stood for,' candidate says

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Arnold Schwarzenegger
Adolf Hitler
Gray Davis
California Recall

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Disputing media reports of a book proposal transcript from the 1970s that paints a picture of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger as an admirer of Adolf Hitler, the California gubernatorial candidate said Thursday that he doesn't remember making the alleged comments and has always despised the Nazi leader.

"I hated the regime -- hate the regime, the Third Reich, the whole Nazi philosophy -- have always fought against it," Schwarzenegger said at a hastily called news conference late Thursday.

"I despise everything that the Nazis stood for, or Hitler stood for."

An article published in Thursday's editions of The New York Times chronicles a book proposal in 1975 by film producer George Butler in which Schwarzenegger reportedly expressed admiration for Hitler.

Schwarzenegger appeared in the Butler film "Pumping Iron," a documentary on competitive bodybuilding.

According to the book transcript as reported Thursday by the Times, Butler considered Schwarzenegger to be a "flagrant, outspoken admirer of Hitler," who also frequently played Nazi marching tunes and "pretended to be an S.S. officer."

Also, according to the Times, the Butler book proposal quotes 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 what he did with it."

An ABC News report Wednesday also attributed the same quote to the actor-turned-politician.

But Friday, the online edition of the Times reported Butler -- having checked a second transcript of the interview -- had found different wording.

"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," the quote read, according to Butler.

Peter Davis, who conducted the interviews for the documentary, told CNN that Schwarzenegger cited Hitler when asked about his heroes growing up, but suggested the comment had been taken out of context.

"He said to me during the interview that his first hero had been Hitler, and he almost was shaking his head at himself at the time and essentially went on to say that as soon as I came to my senses, my hero was John F. Kennedy," Davis said.

Davis said he believes the admiration of Hitler came when Schwarzenegger was a young boy. He was 13 when Kennedy was elected president in 1960.

"I felt his mention of Hitler was self-critical candor at the time," Davis said. "I didn't think he was in any way advocating anything that Adolf Hitler advocated."

Schwarzenegger was asked by reporters Thursday if he had made those comments more than a quarter-century ago.

"I cannot imagine, because from the time I was a kid on I always disliked everything that this regime stood for. When I came to America, it was the same thing," he said.

Schwarzenegger was born in Graz, Austria, in 1947, two years after the end of Nazi occupation.

"I think that Hitler was a disgusting villain, dictator, and he has caused so much harm in the world and we have to make sure it never happens again."

In an interview Friday, California Gov. Gray Davis said the Hitler story was "particularly offensive."

"I don't see how anyone can admire Adolf Hitler. Any decent American has to be offended by that phrase," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Davis continued, "I do not feel comfortable sitting in judgment on newspaper articles or past allegations, but 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."

Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California also expressed concern about the reported Hitler remark.

"If this was a man that found Adolf Hitler to be a glorified and acceptable and a desirable character, I sure want to know it as a Californian because I don't want that man as my governor," she said on NBC's "Today Show."

Feinstein, who believes the recall election is "dead wrong," said it is "hard to tell" what impact the reports will have on the vote.

Schwarzenegger told reporters Thursday that he has raised millions of dollars for the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- a Jewish organization that works to preserve the memory of the Holocaust -- to fight prejudice.

In a CNN interview in August, the center's founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said Schwarzenegger has done more to further the cause of Holocaust awareness than any other movie star.

"I've known him for 24 years ... and he's never demonstrated any bigotry and anti-Semitism. To the contrary, he's stood up for tolerance," Hier said.

Schwarzenegger's father, Gustav, was a member of the Nazi Party during World War II.

In 1990, the actor asked the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles to investigate his father's role.

Hier said, "He told me it's really important to him to find out the truth about his father ... I think the reason he wanted to know about this father's past was that he felt bad about it, not because he was sort of proud of it."

-- CNN senior producer Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.

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