Schwarzenegger Admired Hitler, Book Proposal Says
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
NYT | October 3, 2003
A film producer who chronicled Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise to fame as a champion bodybuilder in the 1970's circulated a book proposal six years ago that quoted the young Mr. Schwarzenegger expressing admiration for Adolf Hitler.
The book proposal by the producer, George Butler, included what were presented as verbatim excerpts from interviews with Mr. Schwarzenegger in the filming of the documentary "Pumping Iron." In a part of the interview not used in the film, Mr. Schwarzenegger was asked to name his heroes — "who do you admire most."
"It depends for what," Mr. Schwarzenegger said, according to the transcript in the book proposal. "I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker."
In addition to the transcript, Mr. Butler wrote in his book proposal that in the 1970's, he considered Mr. Schwarzenegger a "flagrant, outspoken admirer of Hitler." In the proposal, Mr. Butler also said he had seen Mr. Schwarzenegger playing "Nazi marching songs from long-playing records in his collection at home" and said that the actor "frequently clicked his heels and pretended to be an S.S. officer."
Mr. Schwarzenegger, in a telephone interview on Thursday, said he did not recall making any of the comments attributed to him or engaging in any of the behavior described by Mr. Butler.
"Let you tell you something: it's one of those things that if you come from that background, you get accused a lot of times of being that, of being a Nazi," said Mr. Schwarzenegger, who grew up in Austria and whose father was a member of the Nazi Party.
"So you know," he continued, "I despise anything that Hitler stands for, anything he has done, hated the Nazism, hated what was done during the Second World War."
Mr. Schwarzenegger said he did consider Hitler to be "a great public speaker" but someone who had used his talent "for something negative."
In his book proposal, Mr. Butler addressed that point, quoting Mr. Schwarzenegger saying, "I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."
But early this morning, Mr. Butler called back, saying he had driven back to his New Hampshire home and found another transcript of the interview, with different wording: "I admire him 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."
Mr. Butler that his transcribers had had difficulty rendering Mr. Schwarzenegger's remarks because of his accent and said the only way to resolve the discrepancy was to listen to the tapes, which are in Mr. Schwarznegger's possession.
In an interview on Wednesday at his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Mr. Butler stood by his recollection of a young Mr. Schwarzenegger playing Nazi marches and mimicking an S.S. officer. But he described it as passing behavior of an immature young man who had quickly grown up, and he said the comments were a product of the body-building culture of the 1970's. "It is the wackiest, zaniest, silliest, strangest world on earth," Mr. Butler said.
The exchange from "Pumping Iron" that was in the book proposal was confirmed on Thursday by Peter Davis, a consultant to the documentary project who conducted the interviews of Mr. Schwarzenegger for the film, which chronicled the body-building culture. But Mr. Davis, who is also a documentary producer, suggested that the excerpt had been taken out of context in Mr. Butler's proposal, and that Mr. Schwarzenegger had gone on to say that he had changed his views on Hitler as he grew up in Austria.
"He went right on to say, basically, as soon as he woke up, his hero became John F. Kennedy and he was shaking his head at himself," Mr. Davis said.
A copy of the proposal for the book, which would have been entitled "The Master Plan," was provided to The New York Times on Tuesday by someone who has no obvious affiliation with any of the California campaigns. The person provided the copy on the condition that his identity be kept secret and would not explain the motivation for releasing it. But the person was aware that the disclosure, coming within days of the California recall election, could damage Mr. Schwarzenegger's campaign.