California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he regrets his 1986 wedding toast to former U.N. Secretary Kurt Waldheim.
"It was a mistake," Schwarzenegger told The Jewish Journal. "You can't go [back]. It's always easier to be smart in hindsight."
Schwarzenegger spoke to The Journal during a press conference following a live Sept. 25 town hall meeting on the nationally syndicated radio program "The Sean Hannity Show." The Republican Jewish Coalition, KABC and Fox News cosponsored the event.
Despite Schwarzenegger's openness in addressing questions of his father's Nazi past, the "Terminator" star had until now been less than forthcoming about repudiating the wedding toast he made to the former Nazi officer.
In a Sept. 19 editorial, Jewish Journal Editor Rob Eshman called on Schwarzenegger to "come clean on Waldheim."
"It may not expedient," Eshman wrote, "but it's right."
Waldheim's Nazi past came to light in March 1986 during his Austrian presidential bid; the former officer participated in an army intelligence unit that committed atrocities while stationed in the Balkans. In 1944, Waldheim approved anti-Semitic leaflets to be dropped behind Russian lines, one of which ended, "enough of the Jewish war, kill the Jews, come over." During Waldheim's tenure at the United Nations, the international body passed the controversial resolution equating Zionism with racism.
The revelations of Waldheim's Nazi past led the State Department to bar his entry into the United States. Schwarzenegger, during his May 1986 wedding to Maria Shriver, a niece of John F. Kennedy, took time to toast the absent Waldheim, who had sent a gift.
Schwarzenegger addressed his father's participation in the Nazi Party after a 1990 investigation by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. A more recent follow-up investigation by the center found nothing to link his father's unit to Nazi war crimes.
Schwarzenegger has personally donated $750,000 to the Wiesenthal Center and helped raised up to $5 million over the years, the center said.
As far as outreach to the Jewish community, two-thirds of which are registered Democrats, Schwarzenegger doesn't have a specific plan.
"I think that it doesn't matter what your background or religion is," he said. "I think the key is that everyone wants to have economic recovery in California."