POLITICS
06/18/2010 12:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Jerry Brown Thought Nazi Comments Were Off The Record

(AP) Attorney General Jerry Brown said Thursday he was surprised that comments comparing his rival's advertising campaign to a Nazi propagandist were published on a San Francisco radio station's website.

The Democratic nominee for governor said he believed he was having a casual, off-the-record conservation with a reporter he encountered while jogging in the Oakland Hills.

KCBS radio reporter Doug Sovern did not take notes or record the conversation.

"This was just a private conversation," Brown told radio station KGO in San Francisco. "Nobody had a pencil. Nobody said, 'By the way, is this a statement that you're making to the public?"'

Sovern, who identified himself as a reporter, quoted Brown in his blog last week comparing the advertising ability of billionaire Republican candidate Meg Whitman to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

Whitman spent at least $81 million of her own money to win the GOP primary and said she is prepared to spend $150 million over the entire race.

The remarks drew criticism from the Whitman campaign and Jewish groups, and Brown earlier this week disclosed that he had called the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center to express his regret.

The two bumped into each other over Memorial Day weekend while Brown was jogging and Sovern was riding his bike. Sovern posted a story about the conversation to his blog on June 9, the day after the California primary.

Sovern told The Associated Press that Brown never requested the comments be off the record and that he was able to reconstruct the conversation, saying "I have a really good memory."

"I rode right home and wrote it down," Sovern said. "He is a public figure in a public place. He knew I was a reporter and didn't ask for it to be off the record."

The quotes in Sovern's blog were extensive, ranging from remarks about Goebbels to Brown's opinion that Whitman aspired to be the first female president to the nation's energy policy.

Brown hasn't disputed the substance of the quotes and acknowledged Thursday he "probably shouldn't have" referenced Goebbels.