Allen Calls Webb Aide, Apologizes For Remark
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Virginia Sen. George Allen apologized directly to S.R. Sidarth yesterday, telling the 20-year-old Democratic campaign staffer that he was sorry for offending him with remarks that have generated nationwide criticism for being racially insensitive.
Allen's telephone call to Sidarth was the first direct contact between the two since Allen (R) was caught by Sidarth's video camera calling him a "macaca" and welcoming the Fairfax native to "America and the real world of Virginia."
Sidarth said Allen told him that the apology was "from his heart."
"His main point was he was sorry he offended me," Sidarth, a fourth-year University of Virginia student, said in an interview later. "He realized how much he offended me from the comments I made in the media."
The call followed a series of public mea culpas , including one heard across the country Tuesday on a conservative radio talk show hosted by commentator Sean Hannity.
"I take full responsibility. I'm not offering any excuses because I said it, and no one else said it," a somber-sounding Allen told Hannity's audience of more than 12 million listeners. "It's a mistake. I apologize, and from my heart, I'm very, very sorry for it."
Allen also apologized Tuesday at the Greenspring Village retirement community in Springfield, saying "from the deepest part of my heart, I'm sorry and I will do better."
The term "macaca" refers to a genus of monkey and is considered an ethnic slur in some cultures. After Democratic challenger James Webb's campaign posted Sidarth's video on the Internet, the incident became national news and has left Allen on the defensive. The senator had issued a public apology and had said he was sorry at other recent events. Political observers said Allen appears to be trying to put the controversy behind him with more fervent expressions of regret.
But even as he did so, about 50 Democratic activists protested outside a Fairfax County fundraiser for Allen headlined by President Bush. As Bush arrived in Virginia last night, Democrats waved signs that included phrases such as "Hey, George, macaca is a bad word." About the same number of Allen supporters offered signs saying "We love George. We support you."
As the senator was apologizing, his campaign manager continued to blame Webb, the media and the senator's "leftist" foes for the controversy.
"It's great to have the president in Virginia, raising substantial amounts of money so we can fight off the scurrilous attacks by our opponent and his leftist allies," campaign manager Dick Wadhams said in an interview.
Last weekend, Wadhams sent a memo to GOP supporters in which he accused the media of creating a "feeding frenzy" over the incident and called it a "desperate attempt to revive a campaign that was fast-sinking -- the Webb campaign."