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Arnie moves to damage control.

Byline: By Marie Jackson

Arnold Schwarzenegger, hot favourite to be elected governor of California next week, has shifted into damage-control mode, apologising for "bad behaviour" toward women and saying he could not imagine ever saying he admired Adolf Hitler.

Reports that the movie star and former bodybuilder had groped women and once said he admired the Nazi leader surfaced yesterday as he set out on a four-day bus tour toward state capital Sacramento.

Stories by ABC News and The New York Times said that the actor had told an interviewer during the filming of bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron in 1975 that he admired Hitler's rise from humble beginnings.

Schwarzenegger, with wife Maria Shriver at his side, told a news conference: "I don't remember any of those comments because I always despise everything that Hitler stood for." He called the Nazi leader a "disgusting villain".

Earlier in the day he addressed allegations in the Los Angeles Times, which reported the claims of six women that he sexually harassed and groped them between 1975 and 2000. "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 recognise that I offended people," he said.

"Those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that and I apologise."

Polls have shown voters ready to oust Democratic Governor Gray Davis in the October 7 recall election, with Schwarzenegger as the front-runner to replace him.

Davis declined to discuss the issue, saying: "The voters will determine how significant that story is. I'm confident the voters will decide who is best qualified to lead this state."

Some analysts said the revelations could change voters' minds about Schwarzenegger. "This is ... stuff that people get fired for pretty regularly," said Bruce Cain, a political scientist at University of California.

"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."

Pumping Iron director George Butler told ABC the Hitler quotes needed to be seen in context to be understood.

He told The New York Times he stood by his recollection but said Schwarzenegger was an immature young man involved in the outlandish bodybuilding culture of the 1970s.

Schwarzenegger's father was a member of the Nazi Party in Austria. He has faced charges of Nazi sympathising before but rejects them and has donated to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organisation.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 4, 2003
Words:427
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