SAN DIEGO, Calif. – As California recall candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to prevent sexual harassment stories from stalling his campaign, negative reports surfaced Thursday night about the Hollywood star once speaking fondly of Adolf Hitler.
ABC News and the New York Times obtained copies of an unpublished book proposal with quotations from a verbatim transcript of an interview Schwarzenegger gave in 1975 while making the film “Pumping Iron."
Asked who his heroes were, he answered, "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 is quoted as saying 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 total agreement whatever you say."
Schwarzenegger, with wife Maria Shriver (search) at his side, told a late-night news conference at Los Angeles' Century Plaza Hotel that he didn't recall making the reported Hitler remarks.
"I don't remember any of those comments because I always despise everything that Hitler stood for," Schwarzenegger said, calling Hitler a "disgusting villain."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who opposes the effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis, said of the reported comment, "I think it's appalling."
"Your personal behavior does affect you in public office," Feinstein said on a morning talk show Friday. "I like to believe and hope that we elect the best among us, not some of the least among us."
Davis said he found Schwarzenegger's reported comments about Hitler "particularly offensive."
"I don't see how anyone can admire Adolf Hitler. Any decent American has to be offended by that phrase," Davis said in an interview broadcast on another morning show Friday.
He declined to discuss the groping allegations, saying, "The voters will determine how significant that story is."
The author of the book proposal, “Pumping Iron” director George Butler, told ABC News that the quotes needed to be seen in context, and that Schwarzenegger never said anything anti-Semitic.
But the Times reported that Butler wrote in his book proposal that at the time, he considered Schwarzenegger a "flagrant, outspoken admirer of Hitler" who played "Nazi marching songs from long-playing records in his collection at home" and "frequently clicked his heels and pretended to be an S.S. officer."
Asked by the newspaper to comment on the story, Butler said he had found another transcript of the Schwarzenegger interview with slightly different wording: "I admire [Hitler] 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. It's very hard to say who I admire, who are my heroes."
Butler said Schwarzenegger's thick German accent made transcription of the interview difficult, and that the only way to clarify what he said in 1975 would be to listen to the tapes, which are in the actor's possession.
Schwarzenegger was young and immature in 1975, Butler stressed, adding that the body-building culture of the time probably contributed to the remarks.
"It is the wackiest, zaniest, silliest, strangest world on earth," Butler told the Times.
The newspaper reported that Butler's intended title for the book was "The Master Plan."
When addressing the claims of groping on Thursday, Schwarzenegger said he had changed his ways and apologized for offending any women who claim he harassed them.
"I have offended people, and to those people who I have offended I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize because that is not what I tried to do," Schwarzenegger said in a rally in San Diego.
Allegations surfaced Thursday in the Los Angeles Times by six women who accused the Republican action star of groping them on movie sets and in other settings over the last three decades.
Schwarzenegger said that harassment charges are untrue, but added that "where there's smoke there's fire, that is true, so I want to say yes, I have behaved badly.
"Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right which I thought then was playful but now I recognize that I offended people," he added.
Asked about the new allegations of groping against her husband, Shriver referred to his apology earlier in the day in San Diego.
"As I say to my children it always takes great courage to stand before anybody and apologize and I think that's what Arnold did today," Shriver said.
Schwarzenegger has been leading polls in the race to replace California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search). The election will be held on Tuesday.
Some political analysts predicted serious harm to Schwarzenegger, whose standing among women voters was poor even before the latest furor.
"This is not just philandering or adultery — this is stuff that people get fired for pretty regularly," said Bruce Cain, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley. "If Arnold is saying he can grope women because people on movie sets play by a different set of rules, I don't know that people will buy that."
But given the timing and other considerations, Cain said it was unclear whether the controversy would help Davis. "I have no doubt this will cost Arnold votes among women, but I don't know how men will react."
Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Sean Walsh accused Democrats of launching a political attack in the closing days of the race.
"We believe Democrats and others are using this to try to hurt Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign," Walsh said. "We believe that this is coming so close before the election, something that discourages good, hard-working, decent people from running for office."
Democratic strategist Joe Cerrell (search) told Fox News that efforts to pin the sexual-harassment story on Schwarzenegger's opponents wouldn't hold up after Schwarzenegger admitted the allegations.
"It hurts them an awful lot," Cerrell said, adding that "the best defense [for Schwarzenegger] is a good offense."
The women in the article all charged that Schwarzenegger had touched their breasts or buttocks, or made untoward sexual advances. None had ever filed a complaint against the former bodybuilder with the state, employers or police.
At his first campaign stop after the apology, Schwarzenegger was greeted by a handful of protesters holding signs saying, "Women Demand Respect" and "Keep Your Hands Off California's Women." His supporters surrounded them and tried to prevent people from seeing the signs.
"What we saw in the L.A. Times today was not an attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was an attack on every single one of us that wants to take back California," said GOP Rep. David Dreier, a Schwarzenegger supporter.
Schwarzenegger also picked up the endorsement Thursday of Sen. John McCain (search ), R-Ariz.
"I have spent much of my career fighting against the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics. When Arnold becomes governor I hope to have a powerful ally in that fight," McCain said in a statement.
Also Thursday, a lawsuit accused Schwarzenegger of breaking the law for receiving $4 million in loans for his campaign, but a judge refused to block him from using the money. A hearing on a preliminary injunction was set for Dec. 2.
Representatives of several women's organizations, including California NOW, planned a press conference outside the first stop on Schwarzenegger's bus tour Friday to call upon the Los Angeles County district attorney's office to launch a criminal investigation into the groping allegations.
Fox News' Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.