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Allen Quip Provokes Outrage, Apology
Allen is running for a second term in the Senate while planning a possible presidential bid in 2008. Webb, a Vietnam war hero and former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, is working to derail those plans with an underfunded campaign based principally on Webb's early opposition to the war in Iraq.
Virginia Commonwealth University politics professor Robert Holsworth called Allen's comments a gaffe that probably wouldn't change the Senate race but could hurt his presidential ambitions.
"This doesn't turn the race around at all," Holsworth said. "But for a guy running for president, this is likely to be regularly aired this year and maybe beyond."
House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), who represents southwest Virginia, said the Webb campaign is just "grabbing for stuff" to gain traction against Allen. Griffith said he doubts anyone at the rally even picked up on Allen's use of the word macaca.
"Not many people in southwest Virginia would think it is derogatory," Griffith said. "I didn't have a clue what it meant, and I doubt Allen did, either."
Sidarth, who is entering his fourth year at the University of Virginia and is an active Democrat, had been assigned to trail Allen with a video camera to document his travels and speeches for Webb, a common campaign tactic.
Steve Mukherjee, a spokesman for the Washington chapter of the Association of Indians in America, said Allen's comments were "hurtful," and he chided the senator for not being more sensitive.
"The world is so volatile and so delicate," Mukherjee said. "You have to be careful what you say and how you say it. The U.S. is no longer black and white."
Asked what macaca means, Mukherjee said: "What it means, I don't know. But it's going to cause him some grief."
It's not the first time Allen has confronted charges of insensitivity to race or ethnicity from minority leaders and longtime political opponents.
Before he ran for governor in 1993, Allen was criticized for keeping a Confederate flag in a cabin near his Charlottesville home, part of a collection of flags, he has said. He stirred controversy as governor by issuing a proclamation noting the South's celebration of Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery.
This year, the New Republic magazine published a photo of Allen wearing a Confederate flag on his lapel during high school.
"It wasn't a racial statement; it was a statement about his rebellious nature," said John Reid, Allen's communications director.
Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams also went on the offensive, accusing Webb of mailing an anti-Semitic flier during his primary this year that contained a caricature of Webb's Jewish opponent.
Todd said Wadhams is trying to change the subject. "The flier was never meant to be anti-Semitic," she said. "That was a charge levied by our opponent at the time to drive voters away from Jim Webb, much like Allen's trying to do today."