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Senate Races

Allen Quip Provokes Outrage, Apology

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By Tim Craig and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

RICHMOND, Aug. 14 -- Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) apologized Monday for what his opponent's campaign said were demeaning and insensitive comments the senator made to a 20-year-old volunteer of Indian descent.

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At a campaign rally in southwest Virginia on Friday, Allen repeatedly called a volunteer for Democrat James Webb "macaca." During the speech in Breaks, near the Kentucky border, Allen began by saying that he was "going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas" and then pointed at S.R. Sidarth in the crowd.

"This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great," Allen said, as his supporters began to laugh. After saying that Webb was raising money in California with a "bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," Allen said, "Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." Allen then began talking about the "war on terror."

Depending on how it is spelled, the word macaca could mean either a monkey that inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere or a town in South Africa. In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants, according to several Web sites that track ethnic slurs.

"The kid has a name," Webb communications director Kristian Denny Todd said of Sidarth, a Virginia native who was born in Fairfax County. "This is trying to demean him, to minimize him as a person."

Todd added that the use of macaca, whatever it means, and the reference welcoming Sidarth to America were clearly intended to make him uncomfortable.

Reached Monday evening, Allen said that the word had no derogatory meaning for him and that he was sorry. "I would never want to demean him as an individual. I do apologize if he's offended by that. That was no way the point."

Asked what macaca means, Allen said: "I don't know what it means." He said the word sounds similar to "mohawk," a term that his campaign staff had nicknamed Sidarth because of his haircut. Sidarth said his hairstyle is a mullet -- tight on top, long in the back.

Allen said that by the comment welcoming him to America, he meant: "Just to the real world. Get outside the Beltway and get to the real world."

But the apology, which came hours after Allen's campaign manager dismissed the issue with an expletive and insisted the senator has "nothing to apologize for," did little to mollify Webb's campaign or Sidarth, who said he suspects Allen singled him out because his was the only nonwhite face among about 100 Republican supporters.

"I think he was doing it because he could, and I was the only person of color there, and it was useful for him in inciting his audience," said Sidarth, who videotaped the event for the Webb campaign. "I was annoyed he would use my race in a political context."

Told of Allen's apology, Todd added, "I hope Allen realizes that Virginians come in all colors."


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