Schwarzenegger Attacks Harassment Claims
MERCED, Calif. (AP) _ Arnold Schwarzenegger went on the attack Saturday, denouncing the latest sexual harassment allegations made against him as untrue and charging that all of the 11th-hour accusations were intended to wreck his campaign for governor.
The Austrian-born candidate, also accused of expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler nearly 30 years ago, received support from a leader of a Jewish human rights organization and the man who trained the teenage Schwarzenegger as a bodybuilder, both of whom said the actor has championed tolerance.
``The last accusations that I read today are absolutely untrue. They’re trying to torpedo my campaign. They’re trying to make me look bad out there so that people vote no,″ Schwarzenegger said during a campaign stop.
``Why has this not come out before?″ he said of allegations by 11 women that he groped or sexually harassed them.
``Why have they not called me? Why has no one said, `Arnold you went too far.′ If someone said this to me I would apologize immediately.″
Meanwhile, Gov. Gray Davis was flying around the state with several big-name Democrats in a last-ditch effort to persuade people to vote no on the recall. Recent polls showed more than 50 percent of likely voters want him removed from office.
The other leading candidates to replace Davis, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock, were also making appearances.
Much of the focus remained on the front-runner Schwarzenegger, however, after the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that six women claimed he groped or sexually harassed them between 1975 and 2000.
After the story was published, five other women came forward to report similar incidents, including two who said Friday the actor harassed them on the set of the 1988 film ``Twins.″
Another woman said she was an intern at CNN in the early 1980s when Schwarzenegger groped her buttocks and made untoward remarks about her anatomy as she was escorting him to a set.
Schwarzenegger, who apologized Thursday for having sometimes ``behaved badly″ around women, said the latest allegations were untrue. He said he suspected the governor’s supporters were behind them.
Davis has denied any connection to the allegations, and the Times has said none of the first six accusers were put in touch with the newspaper by any of Schwarzenegger’s opponents. The others came forward after the first story broke.
Meanwhile, Austrian gym owner Kurt Marnul told The Associated Press on Saturday that as a teenager Schwarzenegger helped break up neo-Nazi rallies at least twice.
``It’s absurd. It’s 100 percent wrong that he could have ever liked Hitler,″ Marnul said at his gym, where the former world champion bodybuilder began training when he was 15.
Transcripts from a book proposal by George Butler, who directed ``Pumping Iron,″ the 1977 bodybuilding documentary that brought Schwarzenegger to mainstream attention, quoted the actor as expressing admiration for Hitler not for what he did, but for rising to power with little formal education, and for his public speaking abilities.
Butler issued a statement Friday saying the remarks were quoted out of context and that he’d never heard Schwarzenegger utter an anti-Semitic remark.
Schwarzenegger has said he despised Hitler and could not recall ever saying anything in favor of him.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that if Schwarzenegger did express admiration for Hitler he should apologize. But he added that the actor has worked on the center’s behalf for years, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars and speaking out in favor of its pro-tolerance programs.
``For the 20 years that I’ve known Arnold, I can say without reservations, he is not an anti-Semite, he is not a supporter of neo-Nazis or racists,″ Hier said in a telephone interview Saturday from Jerusalem.
The Davis campaign said its internal polling showed support and opposition to the recall vote was running even after word of the allegations. The Schwarzenegger camp said its polls showed a slight movement in favor of Schwarzenegger. Before the remarks, polls showed the recall passing and Schwarzenegger leading the candidates to replace Davis.
One of hundreds of supporters who turned out to greet Schwarzenegger’s bus on Saturday said she suspected at least some of the sex allegations were true but that the nature of the last-minute attacks convinced her to vote for the actor.
``I was torn between him and McClintock but after these horrible stories coming out about Arnold at the last minute, I decided Arnold’s my guy,″ said Shirley Folland, 60.
Davis noted Schwarzenegger has acknowledged mistreatment of women.
``Electing a governor who might have committed a crime is going to distract the state from the work it has to do,″ he said.
Associated Press writers Beth Fouhy and Seth Hettena contributed to this story.