By Michael D. Shear and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 26, 2006; B01
RICHMOND, Sept. 25 -- Virginia Sen. George Allen on Monday denied allegations by a college football teammate and another former acquaintance that the senator used a racial epithet to refer to blacks during and after his time at the University of Virginia in the early 1970s.
The accusations by R. Kendall Shelton, 53, a radiologist in North Carolina, and Christopher C. Taylor, 59, an anthropologist at the University of Alabama, reignited questions about Allen and race as he campaigns for reelection against Democrat James Webb.
Shelton said Allen frequently used the "N-word" to describe blacks and nicknamed him "Wizard" because of the similarity of his name to that of Robert Shelton, a former imperial wizard of the Alabama Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He also recounted an event from 1973 or 1974 in which he, Allen and a third friend were hunting deer. After the deer was killed, Shelton said, Allen cut off the doe's head, asked for directions to the home of the nearest black person and shoved the head into that person's mailbox.
Taylor said that during a visit to Allen's Charlottesville house in 1982, Allen pointed to turtles in a pond on his property and said only "the [epithets] eat them."
Allen adviser Chris LaCivita said that Taylor is lying and that "this guy is not credible, period." LaCivita said Taylor is a liberal activist.
In comments Monday to reporters, Allen called Shelton's recollections about the deer incident "absolutely false," "pure fabrication" and "nonsense." He said he called Shelton "Wizard" because of his acrobatic catches on the football field. Allen said he does not recall ever having used the "N-word" or any other racial epithets at the University of Virginia.
"That word was not a part of my vocabulary," the senator said. "It wasn't then. It hasn't been since then. And it is not now. It is not who I was, and it is not who I am. It is contrary to every fiber of my being. This story is an attack piece. It is deplorable, and it is false." Allen was referring to a story posted Sunday night on Salon.com, which first reported Shelton's allegations. Salon.com is an Internet magazine of news and opinion.
Allen's campaign released statements Monday from four former teammates and coaches who defended Allen, saying they never heard him use racial epithets or saw him act insensitively toward blacks. Allen is running for a second term against Webb, a former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan.
"I have never known or heard him use racial epithets to describe blacks either in public or in private," George Korte, a linebacker on the U-Va. team from 1970 to 1973, said in the statement. "It appears to me that Kenny Shelton has some deep rooted problems with his self-identity and a rather hyperactive imagination."
Several former teammates interviewed by The Washington Post agreed.
"I have never heard him use that word," said Rob Berce, a wide receiver who graduated in 1976. "He just seemed to be a pretty upfront, good guy."
Jim Grobe, the head football coach at Wake Forest University, said he is "shocked" by Shelton's allegations. "I never heard George say anything like that," Grobe said.
The allegations are the latest to shake the Allen campaign after weeks of negative publicity about his describing a Webb volunteer of Indian descent as "macaca," which is a genus of monkey and a racial slur in some cultures. He has also spent the past week dealing with revelations that his mother was raised Jewish, which he says he did not know until just weeks ago.
Stuart Rothenberg, an independent analyst who edits the Rothenberg Political Report, said the senator is caught in a media frenzy that threatens his campaign and his consideration of a possible run for president in 2008.
"Every day, the campaign is about who George Allen is or what he said," Rothenberg said Monday. "It keeps him totally off message. He's constantly responding to charges and criticisms and his own stumbles."
In interviews with The Post on Sunday night and Monday, Shelton said Allen frequently used the "N-word."
"I have no doubt George was a racist in the early 1970s," said Shelton, who described himself as a former Democrat who is registered as an independent. "I couldn't care less if George was a Democrat or a Republican. He shouldn't be in public office."
Shelton is listed as "unaffiliated" in voter registration records but voted in the state's Republican primaries this year. He was registered as a Democrat from 1988 through 2004, according to the Henderson County, N.C., elections office.
The former tight end and wide receiver said his recollections were jarred by the controversy over Allen's use of "macaca." Shelton said he has felt guilty for years that he didn't stop Allen during the deer incident.
Taylor said he was invited to Allen's house by the senator's first wife, Anne, after they participated in a photo shoot celebrating the expansion of a Charlottesville shopping center. He said she had offered to give him one of the Allens' Australian shepherd puppies.
"I asked him about waterfowl landing at the lake," Taylor recalled. "He said if they hatched out into ducklings, they would all get attacked by the big turtles. I said, 'Why don't you kill and eat these turtles?' He said: 'We don't eat them. The [epithets] eat them.' "
Anne Waddell confirmed that Taylor came to their house to pick a puppy but said: "I can say with absolute certainty that his recollection that George said anything at all that could be considered racially insensitive is completely false. He would never utter such a word."
She said she was "the one who fished for the turtles in our pond because they were eating the young goslings. The person who ate the turtles was our neighbor."
Taylor first offered his account in an e-mail this summer after seeing the tape that caught the "macaca" incident. He repeated the account Monday.
Two other former U-Va. athletes also said they recalled Allen using racial epithets frequently in college. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared the effect of coming forward on their livelihoods and families.
Allen struggled for years with questions about his past, including reports that he displayed a Confederate flag and had a noose in his law office. In the past several years, he has sponsored legislation to apologize for slavery and has been endorsed by a leading Democratic black state senator for his efforts to help historically black colleges and universities.
Several black ministers came to his defense Monday after appearing with Allen on behalf of a proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
"We're standing for his character and for his integrity," said the Rev. Martin Brown. "We should be focusing on the issues instead of focusing on character assassination."
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.