Arnold Schwarzenegger pulls out 'Conan the Barbarian' blade in video denouncing Capitol riot, Trump: 'Democracy is like the steel of this sword'

Erin Donnelly
·6 min read
Arnold Schwarzenegger (pictured in 2019) shared a powerful statement reflecting on the Capitol riot. (Photo: Jun Sato/WireImage)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (pictured in 2019) shared a powerful statement reflecting on the Capitol riot. (Photo: Jun Sato/WireImage)

Arnold Schwarzenegger has shared a powerful statement on Sunday in response to the storming of the United States Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters last Wednesday. In it, the movie star and former governor of California reflected on his upbringing in a post-war Austria, called President Donald Trump a “failed leader” who “will go down in history as the worst president ever” and used the mighty sword from his famed 1982 film, Conan the Barbarian, as a metaphor for the strength of American democracy.

“As an immigrant to this county, I would like to say a few words to my fellow Americans,” the 73-year-old star began his video address, which saw him sitting in his office with the American and California state flags behind him.

Schwarzenegger — who was born in 1947, just two years after the end of World War II — went on to draw comparisons between Wednesday’s insurrection and Kristallnacht (or, “the Night Of Broken Glass”), which he called a “night of rampage against the Jews carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.” (The historic event saw Jewish-owned businesses, homes and synagogues across Nazi Germany, which then included Austria, being destroyed along with mass arrests and fatalities.)

“Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States,” he added. “The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol. But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. They shattered the ideas we took for granted. They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy. They trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.

“I grew up in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy,” Schwarzenegger, who was born in the village of Thal, Austria, continued. “Growing up, I was surrounded by broken men drinking away the guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history. Not all of them were rapid anti-Semites or Nazis. Many just went along, step by step, down the road. They were the people next door.

“Now, I’ve never shared this so publicly because it is a painful memory. But my father would come home drunk, once or twice a week, and he would scream and hit us and scare my mother. I didn’t hold him totally responsible because our neighbor was doing the same thing to his family, and so was the next family over. I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes. They were in physical pain from the shrapnel in their bodies, and in emotional pain from what they saw or did. It all started with lies, and lies, and lies, and intolerance.”

The Terminator star added that he had “seen firsthand how things can spin out of control” and expressed his concern that the U.S. might fall into a similar trap. A longtime foil of the president — also his predecessor as the host of The Celebrity Apprentice — Schwarzenegger went on to call out “failed leader” Trump and the “complicit” politicians who have “enabled his lies and his treachery.” (Though he did not single anyone other than Trump by name, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri have been called by many critics to resign for their part in objecting to the electoral vote certification process.)

“I know there is a fear in this country and all over the world that something like this could happen right here,” he shared. “Now, I do not believe it is. But I do believe that we must be aware of the dire consequences of selfishness and cynicism. President Trump sought to overturn the results of an election, and of a fair election. He sought a coup by misleading people with lies. My father and our neighbors were misled also with lies, and I know where such lies lead. President Trump is a failed leader. He will go down in history as the worst president ever. The good thing is he will soon be as irrelevant as an old tweet. But what are we to make of those elected officials who have enabled his lies and his treachery?”

After railing against the “spinelessness” of these political leaders, Schwarzenegger added that he was heartened that democracy had “held firm.” He ended up pulling out one of his most famous movie props to demonstrate the resiliency of democracy.

Schwarzenegger with his sword on the set of 1982's Conan the Barbarian. (Photo: Dino De Laurentiis/Universal Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Schwarzenegger with his sword on the set of 1982's Conan the Barbarian. (Photo: Dino De Laurentiis/Universal Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Now here’s the thing about swords,” he said, wielding the length blade. “The more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes. The more you pound it with a hammer, and then heat it in the fire, and then thrust it into the cold water and pound it again, and then plunge it into the fire and the water, and the more often you do that, the stronger it becomes.

“Our democracy is like the steel of this sword. The more it is tempered, the stronger it becomes. Our democracy has been tempered by wars, injustices and insurrections. I believe, as shaken as we are about the events of recent days, we will come out stronger because we now understand what can be lost.”

The Republican wrapped up his nearly-8-minute message with a call for Americans to unite and “put our democracy first.” He added a statement of support for President-elect Joe Biden, wishing him “great success.”

Schwarzenegger’s True Lies co-star Jamie Lee Curtis was among those praising him for the “much needed” speech. Daughter Katherine, who is married to actor Chris Pratt, also shared the video on her Instagram Stories, calling it “profound.”

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