Sins of the Father?

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This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, August 26, 2003. Watch The O'Reilly Factor weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the Radio Factor!

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In The Factor Follow-Up segment tonight, as you may know, Arnold Schwarzenegger's father was a member of the Nazi (search) party in Austria in and around World War II. Apparently this is still an issue for some.

Joining us now from Los Angeles is Rabbi Marvin Heir, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (search).

I don't know why anybody would care about Arnold Schwarzenegger's father 50 years ago. Can you tell me, rabbi?

MARVIN HIER, RABBI, WIESENTHAL CENTER FOUNDER: Well, first, let me say that Arnold came to me in 1990. And he said, I don't know what my father did during World War II. And I'd like to know. And I'd like the Simon Wiesenthal Center to investigate it.

At that time, we found his father's Nazi party card. We turned it over to Arnold. It showed that he wanted to join the Nazi party even before the Anschloss, before Hitler took over Austria. And we also investigated whether he was wanted for war crimes and found that he was not.

But now, their soldier's book turned up. And that is, there was a 30 year secrecy in effect. In the Austrian archives, you have to wait 30 years after someone died. In Arnold's father's case, he died in '72, before the soldier's book was made public which lists all the campaigns he fought in and this turned up a new document which showed that he was a member of an S.A. unit fighting in the Soviet Union in 1941.

The reason we're investigating it is not because it should have an effect on Arnold. I believe most definitively it should have no effect whatsoever. We're investigating it because Arnold wanted to know the truth about his father, and this new document is unfinished business that we must investigate to let him know, you know, all the details of his father's career.

O'REILLY: He's still in touch with you, and he still wants you to find out everything about his father?

HIER: Absolutely. And we want to do it for the historic record.

But, as I've said, Bill, many, many times, it is not the American way -- and as a rabbi -- nor is it the Jewish way to pin either the deeds or the misdeeds of a father upon a son.

O'REILLY: But you know, Rabbi, the press does that all the time. I mean, in the case of Mel Gibson -- you and I talked about this a few months ago out in Los Angeles -- they're demonizing Gibson because of his father's kooky views of the world.

And I've already seen it in print -- The L.A. Times did a piece a couple of weeks ago -- that this Arnold Nazi thing is floating around in a way that could hurt Mr. Schwarzenegger. So I'm concerned on that level.

I mean I know you and your fine staff aren't doing this for malevolence, and I want to make that perfectly clear. You do brilliant work. You have for decades.

But here, I don't know -- I mean I guess if Arnold's pushing you -- but who cares if the guy was an S.A. guy? He brutalized Arnold. Arnold even admits that he was a terrible father to him. Who cares?

HIER: Arnold never attended his funeral.


HIER: But I should make clear that, look, this was faced in the senatorial campaign of John F. Kennedy. When John F. Kennedy ran for the Senate, there are many people who brought up the fact that his father was against the United States taking on Nazism, he didn't want the United States to enter the war against Hitler, and...

O'REILLY: But what did that have to do with JFK?

HIER: That's correct.

O'REILLY: It didn't have anything to do with him.

HIER: And Kennedy addressed it, and he said to the people in Boston, I'm the one running for the Senate, not my father.

O'REILLY: Yes! But we live in an age now where the press is so hyper-competitive on this Internet and everything that this kind of stuff is used to bludgeon people, and when I saw it, I said who cares.

I mean outside of a sense of curiosity, who cares if Arnold Schwarzenegger's father was a Nazi? I mean it doesn't have anything to do with him running for the governor of California, does it?

HIER: No, it doesn't, and I can tell you that Arnold is embarrassed by the fact that his father was a Nazi. But it has nothing to do with Arnold. He deserves to be judged on his own deeds, and that's the only issue.

O'REILLY: And he's been very, very generous to Jewish causes, has he not?

HIER: I've known him for 20 years, and he's been a supporter of the State of Israel, a supporter of our institution, and he certainly does not have the M.O. of a bigot. Let's put it that way.

O'REILLY: OK, Rabbi. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

HIER: Thank you, Bill.

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