NYT's Shear Digs Up Racism Accusations: 'Much More' Than 'Macaca' Doomed GOP Sen. George Allen
New York Times reporter Michael Shear filed a "Political Memo" Thursday on the return of former Virginia Sen. George Allen, who lost in 2006 after the media and the Washington Post in particular harped on a daily basis after Allen referred to opponent's opposition research person as "macaca." Shear felt the need to kneecap Allen out of the starting gate by injecting all the old controversies and rumors of racism into the current news cycle for "A Comeback in Virginia, Shadowed by a Stumble."
Political redemption, it seems, is almost never completely out of reach.
Six years ago, after losing his Virginia Senate seat and handing control of the chamber to Democrats, George Allen hinted that he could see a day when the bitterness and embarrassment of his defeat would no longer loom so large.
Shear suggested attention to Allen's controversial "macaca" comment wasn't the only thing that cost Allen his Senate seat; "it was much more than that," Shear assured his readers.
Mr. Allen was once a national star in the Republican Party with White House ambitions. But he became the political victim of a viral Internet video when, at a campaign stop, he called a young man of Indian descent a “macaca,” a term that can refer to monkeys. Mr. Webb’s campaign eagerly pointed out the remark, and the furor over what Mr. Allen meant lasted for weeks.
Mr. Allen and his team fumbled the response, alternately accusing the media of a witch hunt and apologizing for any offense. Longtime supporters stuck by him, but had long since given the maximum they could contribute for Mr. Allen’s presidential hopes. His fund-raising dried up amid questions about ethnic insensitivities.
But while the political history of Mr. Allen’s 2006 loss is often attributed simply to that one phrase, it was much more than that.
Questions about Mr. Allen’s relationship to the black community were given new life by the controversy over his remarks. Stories about the Confederate flag he embraced in high school were written again. He once again had to defend the noose he had displayed in his law office -- a Western lasso, he said, not a hateful symbol.
Even more damaging were accusations -- suddenly public -- that Mr. Allen had used racial epithets against African-Americans while he was in college. At one point, Mr. Allen gathered a group of African-American ministers behind him for a news conference at which he angrily denied using the epithets.
And in the midst of it all was the odd revelation of Mr. Allen’s Jewish heritage, the knowledge of which Mr. Allen discovered from his elderly mother after reporters pressed for more information about his background.
Asked about his Jewish ancestry at a debate, Mr. Allen angrily accused the reporter of “making aspersions.” But a few days earlier, his mother had finally revealed the truth she had been hiding from her children for decades: that she was brought up Jewish in North Africa after World War II and hid the fact when she moved back to the United States.
“We sat across the table and he said, ‘Mom, there’s a rumor that Pop-pop and Mom-mom were Jewish and so were you,’” Henrietta Allen recalled her son asking. Having received her answer, Mr. Allen later issued a statement acknowledging and embracing his Jewish roots.