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AMERICAN MORNING

Arnold's Controversies

Aired October 3, 2003 - 09:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Arnold Schwarzenegger is denying charges that he's an anti-Semite, and that when he was younger, he admired Adolf Hitler. Reports by ABC News and "The New York Times," a filmmaker quotes the actor as praising the Nazi leader about 25 years ago. George Butler, director of "Pumping Iron," quotes Schwarzenegger as saying, "I admire Hitler 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," end quote.
Back to L.A. right now. The day after, and Bob Franken is tracking this.

Bob, good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning.

And, Bill, the one thing that I want to point out is that throughout this campaign, these various controversies occurred around Arnold Schwarzenegger about comments that he's made many years ago. He has frequently said he had no recollection of these comments, and this was a case in point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIF. GOV. CANDIDATE: I don't remember any of those comments, because I always despised everything that Hitler stood for. I hated the regime, hate the regime that the Third Reich and all of this, the whole Nazi philosophy, have always fought against that, and I just know that I have been participated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center for the last 20 years and have raised millions of dollars in order to fight prejudice and to fight all this. So I think we have to make continue fighting so this never, ever happens again.

So I despise everything that the Nazis stood for or Hitler stood for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: And Schwarzenegger, of course, has bounced from one controversy to the next in the last day, and in all his comments, whether they be contrite or whatever they are, he has always pointed out that he feels there could be some timing -- it could be a matter of timing, trying to derail his campaign. He says there are a lot of powerful enemies out there, quoting from him, and they're, of course, striking out and trying, as I said, to now derail the campaign. So it's sort of a mixed reaction. On the one hand, sometimes contrition, or dealing with these issues, other times there's a bit of defiance involved -- Bill.

HEMMER: Thanks, Bob Franken from Los Angeles.

Words he may have said more than 25 years ago. The allegations, sexual allegations, drawing his public apology a couple times yesterday in fact. How will they respond? We'll find out Tuesday.

Jeff Greenfield in L.A., covering that race and joins us now live from California to talk more about it.

First things first, Jeff, a field poll, a well-known poll in the state of California, did some polling from Monday through Wednesday before these last two allegations came out. They found strength growing actually to recall the governor and also more strength for Schwarzenegger, but again, we do not know how this may or may not affect it.

Good morning. What's your take?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: OK, well, let's take a look at what the field poll said, because as you point out, it came out right before this spate of allegations. On the recall, the most important number -- I'm not sure we have this on a graphic -- among likely voters, 57 percent say they would vote to recall Gray Davis, 39 percent say they would not. That tracks with, although it's not the same number as our CNN poll and the field poll, support for the recall growing.

Now among replacement candidates, Schwarzenegger holds a significant lead as of two days ago, 36 percent say they would vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger, 26 percent say they would vote for the Democrat, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, 16 percent say they would vote for the conservative state senator, Republican Tom McClintock, and 22 percent undecided. That is a higher number than other polls have showed.

And given the allegations, I want to show you how it splits along gender lines. Schwarzenegger does well among both sexes. He is leading among men, 41 percent, 26 percent to Cruz Bustamante. McClintock at 14 percent. Among women, a group we will be paying a lot of attention to, he still leads big, 31 percent to 16 percent for Bustamante, 17 percent for McClintock, 26 percent of women undecided. And I should also mention down in the poll, 29 percent of Democrats say they're going to vote to recall the governor. That's where we stood just before these stories about what I might call predatory behavior toward women, and this praising of Hitler allegation broke in the last 24 to 36 hours.

HEMMER: If you go back to the apology that was given several times yesterday, it's interesting to note, based on history, how do people receive that? Are they going to say, hey, this is a rookie move, he should have covered for himself better, the guy's fresh to the scene and did not know? Or maybe it was a novel approach, that some people may be attracted toward?

GREENFIELD: Well, you know, I think the timing of this is very significant, because people talk all the time about last-minute trash politics. In a way, the timing of this helps Schwarzenegger, because people who have decided to vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger are a lot more -- are a lot harder to move than undecided people. And if this had broken as Schwarzenegger was just getting into the race, it could have defined him.

We're already hearing an seeing hearing and see in the local papers and local broadcasts, Schwarzenegger people simply dismissing this as trash politics. It's also interesting to me, just to show you what California is like, Bill, on today's op-ed page of "The Los Angeles Times," you have Susan Estrich, a Democrat, a liberal. She ran Michael Dukakis' campaign, deploring this late-minute what she call smear and insisting "The L.A. Times" apologize. That from a liberal Democratic woman.

Now K.B. Forbes (ph), who is a conservative Republican, who helped Bill Simon in his last campaign, said that it proved that the corrupt California Republican Party was so desperate to win that they had endorsed a deviant sexual predator. So you've got a Democratic woman saying it doesn't matter much and a Republican operative saying, you bet it does.

But I think the lateness of it is actually a help to Schwarzenegger.

GREENFIELD: "L.A. Times" also editorial, "Maybe that's what voters want this time, To have the class bully on their side." It continues, "As fans seem to want Schwarzenegger to stride into Sacramento, mop up the floor with that loser legislative crew." It also goes on to say, "If only the waitress who said he asked her for a crude favor had followed her instincts and poured that hot coffee in his lap.

HEMMER: We can't make this stuff up, Jeff. No, you can't.

GREENFIELD: No, you can't. Just a quick note, that this is not -- what could hurt Schwarzenegger is the fact these women are not anonymous anymore. They've come forward. They've been on the local news. He's given them credibility by apologizing. And This is not simply high jinx on the Hollywood movie set. This is a waitress in a coffee shop, a bystander at gym. That's where this thing could cut, if people come to decide that this is not sort of rowdy behavior, but the behavior of a bully.

HEMMER: Four days and counting, Jeff Greenfield in L.A. Thanks.

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