SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Saying he has changed his ways, California recall candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) apologized Thursday for offending any women who claim he had sexually 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.
Schwarzenegger's wife, broadcast journalist Maria Shriver (search), had no comment, her spokeswoman said.
As Schwarzenegger tried to prevent the harassment allegations from stalling his campaign, another negative report surfaced Thursday about the Hollywood star once speaking fondly of Adolf Hitler.
ABC News obtained a copy of an unpublished book proposal with quotes from a verbatim transcript of an interview Schwarzenegger gave in 1975 while making the film “Pumping Iron."
Asked who his heroes are, 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 an experience "like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium. And have all those people scream at you and just being total agreement whatever you say."
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.
"I cannot remember any of these," Schwarzenegger told ABC News. "All I can tell you is that I despise everything Hitler stood for. I despise everything the Nazis stood for, everything the Third Reich stood for."
Schwarzenegger has been leading polls in the race to replace California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search). The election will be held on Tuesday.
Responding in the paper's report of sexual harassment, 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."
But Democratic strategist Joe Cerrell (search) told Fox News that efforts to pin the story on Schwarzenegger's opponents won't hold up since Schwarzenegger admitted poor conduct. He added that Schwarzenegger's team has been preparing for the news and by apologizing, Schwarzenegger is trying to get on top of the story.
"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. Two of the six women in the article allowed their names to be revealed, but none had ever filed a complaint against the former bodybuilder with the state, employers or police.
One of the women in the story is an ex-wife of a former body builder who had a falling out with Schwarzenegger. She claimed the incident happened 28 years ago. Another woman, a British television host, claimed Schwarzenegger touched her breast after an interview. That allegedly took place in 2000.
Schwarzenegger shocked the crowd in San Diego, where he was kicking off a four-day bus tour of the state in the final weekend before the election. The crowd, some of whom were quoted prior to Schwarzenegger's apology saying they did not believe the report, were cheering and clapping as Schwarzenegger started his mea culpa by saying that he is confident "the people of California will see through this trash politics."
But Schwarzenegger then apologized, saying that "a lot of the stuff in the story is not true" and he never intended to harm anyone.
A spokesman for Davis' campaign said they were not involved in publicizing any of the story, which included one woman who said Schwarzenegger tried to remove her bathing suit in a hotel elevator, and another who said the actor pulled her onto his lap and asked whether a certain sexual act had ever been performed on her.
Outside the center, two Democratic Party activists protested Schwarzenegger. One held up the front page of the Los Angeles Times with the article on the alleged harassment.
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.
Fox News' Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.