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Chris Wallace, Caught Off Balance?

Wallace said the surprise is not that he asked Clinton about terrorism but that no other television interviewer did during a round of appearances last week. Clinton, Wallace said, remained "upset" and "angry" after the interview.

The 'Jewish' Question

How did having Jewish relatives turn into a gotcha question?

Virginia Sen. George Allen was clearly irritated last week when a WUSA-TV reporter, seemingly out of nowhere, asked at a televised debate whether his mother was Jewish. Allen dismissed the question as "irrelevant," but said a day later he had discovered that his grandfather was Jewish, and the following day that his mother had recently told him that she was raised Jewish as well.

Call it the oy vey factor: Was this yet another attempt by the media to catch a politician covering up some secret personal detail? Or was it the southerner in cowboy boots who invited scrutiny of his background by keeping the information under wraps?

It remains unclear why Channel 9's Peggy Fox posed the question to Allen during his debate with Democratic challenger James Webb. Was this a matter of pressing importance to the voters of Virginia?

Fox, who is described on WUSA's Web site as "a Fairfax County native who married her West Springfield High School sweetheart," declined to be interviewed. In an e-mail, she says: "I would love to talk to you to tell you why I asked the question. But I am not the story. Senator Allen is. I will tell you I asked the question because I wanted to find out if he was hiding a heritage he really should be proud of (like most Americans are) because he felt acknowledging his roots could cost him votes.

"The question had been asked before and not answered. To me, it doesn't matter what religion someone is, but not being genuine does. The voters have a right to know if the candidates are who they say they are."

In an e-mail response to viewers, Fox also says: "I regret the way I worded the question and the way Senator Allen turned the spotlight onto the question itself without addressing the bigger political issue which could be relevant to the campaign."

But what is the "bigger" issue? When Allen threw the question back at her, demanding to know why it was relevant, she replied, "Honesty." Was Fox essentially accusing the candidate of lying?

In a way, the Allen campaign opened the door to Fox's question by not providing answers to the Jewish newspaper the Forward, which reported late last month that Allen's mother, Henrietta, a French Tunisian, was "likely" Jewish by birth. A week earlier, the senator's staff told Time's Mike Allen that they were not familiar with any Jewish background. The reporter says he suggested that they ask Allen if his mother has Jewish roots, "and the response was that he didn't think she does."

The senator's mother got dragged into public discussion because of speculation that Allen had picked up the word "macaca" from her. As the civilized world knows by now, Allen has apologized for using the word -- a racial slur in some cultures -- to describe an Indian American volunteer for Webb's campaign.

The press may well have overplayed the macaca gaffe -- there was no comparable frenzy over Webb saying three decades ago that the U.S. Naval Academy was "a horny woman's dream" -- but it was a self-inflicted wound that was captured on video and downloaded thousands of times on

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