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Women's groups, religious leaders rally opposition to Schwarzen

Saturday, October 4, 2003

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Women's groups and religious leaders worked feverishly Friday to galvanize opposition to Arnold Schwarzenegger after he acknowledged treating women badly and responded to reports that he told an interviewer he admired Adolf Hitler.

A coalition of women's groups met at the Feminist Majority offices here to unveil an anti-Schwarzenegger ad campaign and introduce a former TV network intern who said the gubernatorial candidate groped her when she showed him around a sound stage 25 years ago.

She was one of several women -- including radio psychologist Dr. Joy Browne -- to come forward Friday with new allegations Schwarzenegger groped or made inappropriate comments to them. The allegations echo complaints made by other women against the Republican front-runner in the election to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

Criticism also poured in from religious leaders and the state's top Democrats for remarks attributed to the actor in 1975 that he admired Hitler's ability to rise from humble beginnings. Schwarzenegger also played Nazi marches and mimicked SS officers, according to the director of the 1975 bodybuilding documentary "Pumping Iron."

Stories by ABC News and The New York Times said the actor told an interviewer during the filming of "Pumping Iron" that he admired Hitler's rise to power and wished he could have experienced the thrill Hitler must have had in speaking to huge audiences who agreed with everything he said.

The news organizations said the remarks were contained in transcripts from a book proposal made by "Pumping Iron" director George Butler.

"To express admiration for a person directly responsible for the death of tens of millions of people during World War II is beyond comprehension," said Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., the only Holocaust survivor in Congress. "I think it probably ends any political ambition he may have had."

On Thursday Schwarzenegger acknowledged and apologized for having "behaved badly sometimes" around women, but said he could not imagine saying anything positive about Hitler, whom he said he despised.

The Schwarzenegger campaign released a statement from Butler on Friday saying the transcripts were part of a private document he never intended for a wide audience.

"As I have made clear to The New York Times and ABC, statements by Schwarzenegger (taken from the "Pumping Iron" outtakes) were not in context and not even strictly accurate as it turns out from a closer reading of a copy of what (I believe) to be a transcript of the original, now found after many years," Butler said.

He added that he does not have the "Pumping Iron" outtakes.

On Friday, the second day of Schwarzenegger's four-day bus tour of the state, as more women came forward to claim sexual misconduct, the actor ignored the allegations, and some his supporters laughed them off.

"He can grope me," one woman shouted at a campaign stop in Santa Clarita. Some supporters held signs reading: "Gray Davis groped me ... While reaching for my wallet."

When his microphone failed at one point, he quipped that the news media might be to blame, quickly adding he could get away with such a remark because his wife, Maria Shriver, is a journalist.

"Our campaign is going great," he said later.

Representatives of the Feminist Majority, National Organization for Women, CodePink and other women's groups said they were organizing demonstrations around the state.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger has an appalling record of disrespect and abuse of women," said Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org, an Internet-based political action group that paid for the new television ad unveiled at the women's coalition news conference. "It would be a disgrace to women and a disgrace to all the people of California if he became governor."

The Los Angeles Times quoted six women on Thursday -- two by name and four anonymously -- who said Schwarzenegger had groped or sexually harassed them during separate incidents between 1975 and 2000.

Browne told "Inside Edition" Friday that Schwarzenegger groped her ankles and knees during an interview in the 1970s.

As more women came forward, Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Todd Harris said one of the accusers was a member of a union that opposes Schwarzenegger.

"So here we have the first direct fingerprint of Democratic involvement in this last-minute anti-Arnold sleaze campaign," Harris said.

Another accuser was Dan Lurie, a prominent figure for decades in the sport of bodybuilding, who told The Associated Press on Friday that he watched in amazement as Schwarzenegger repeatedly groped waitresses at a snack bar at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York around 1969 or 1970.

"I said, 'Arnold, what are you doing?" Lurie, now 80, recalled from his home in New York. "He said, 'I want sex, this is what I do in my country.'

"I said, 'You're in America now, you can get killed for that, you don't know if they're married."'

The San Diego Union-Tribune, which has endorsed Schwarzenegger's candidacy, said in a Friday editorial that the sexual allegations raise serious questions that must be addressed further. Representatives of several women's groups said they would call for a criminal investigation, though none of the women filed complaints about the alleged groping.

Such cases are handled by police investigators and not the district attorney's office, William Hodgman, who heads the office's sex crimes division, said in response to one request for an investigation. He also indicated the allegations do not rise to the felony level prosecuted by district attorneys.

In West Los Angeles, leaders of Jewish, black and Muslim community groups called a news conference Friday to denounce the Hitler report.

"There is a chance that a man who admires Adolf Hitler could be the next governor of California," said Scott Svonkin, Southern California chairman of the B'nai B'rith Center for Public Policy.

Jona Goldrich, who said he escaped from the Nazis at age 14, said an apology in this case wouldn't be adequate.

"There is no room for apology, to praise someone who killed 6 1/2 million Jews," said Goldrich, 76.

Amber Bowden, 19, said in San Bernardino that she voted for Schwarzenegger by absentee ballot but wishes she could take her vote back in light of the allegations. That's impossible, said San Bernardino County Registrar Scott Konopasek.

"It lowers my esteem of him," said Bowden, who was voting in her first election. "It might affect his ability to lead the state."


Associated Press writers Tom Harrigan and Erica Werner contributed to this story.


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