'Macaca' Brouhaha: Fierce Guessing on What Allen Meant

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 17, 2006

The headline on the Wonkette blog, which normally pays little attention to Virginia politics, said it all: "Breaking News: Hakuna macaca, Or, George Allen Puts Foot In Mouth And Sucks, Hard."

The reference was to the now-infamous comment in which the state's Republican junior senator called a volunteer of Indian descent for Democrat James Webb "macaca" and welcomed the Fairfax-born University of Virginia student "to America and the real world of Virginia."

It was caught on video because S.R. Sidarth , the volunteer in question, was there specifically to catch Allen saying something careless on video. Allen knew that. In fact, watching the footage, it seems that Allen turned directly toward Sidarth and stared straight into the camera.

So why say it?

That question was the subject of massive speculation on the Internet on Monday moments after The Washington Post reported the comment.

"Maybe he meant to call him maraca, after the Latin percussion instrument that the mambo kings utilized so well," the Wonkette gossips speculated. Or maybe, the site mused, "Allen might have meant to say Mufasa , like Simba's wise father in the Lion King."

Others took the issue more seriously, debating whether Allen's comments reflected some deep racism or, rather, contained a nonsense word devoid of meaning that was being twisted into something nefarious by Allen's political foes.

"Allen finally lets down his guard and shows the true face behind that big fake smile," said one anonymous writer on The Post's Web site.

Said a G. Davis , also on The Post's site, "Yawn. Mohawka -- Mo-caca. George takes a shot at a hired gun. So what? He's calling him a dipstick, not a monkey."

It could be, as one pundit suggested, that the comment was a reflection of Allen's fraternity sense of humor, in which joshing with someone shouldn't be taken so seriously. "Clearly, it was Allen having fun at a campaign event," said Virginia Commonwealth University professor Robert Holsworth .

Allen's own explanation: He chose a word similar to a nickname his campaign had given Sidarth. That nickname was Mohawk, in honor of what Allen and his staff said was the student's haircut.

That, too, prompted howls of outrage from liberal bloggers, who had a field day with Allen.

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