Now, Even Allen's Apologies Are Getting Him in Trouble
Friday, September 29, 2006
RICHMOND, Sept. 28 -- Sen. George Allen can't seem to win: first, he apologizes for addressing an Indian American with a racial slur and acknowledges that many view the Confederate flag as a hate symbol. Now, the Sons of Confederate Veterans want him to apologize, too.
As he fights Democrat James Webb for a second term in the Senate, Allen has spent the last six weeks battling charges of racism after calling a young Indian American man "macaca" and later being accused of having used a racial epithet toward blacks.
He has vehemently denied ever using the "N-word." He has apologized profusely for saying "macaca." And he has insisted that he has moved far beyond his youthful admiration of controversial symbols like the battle flag.
"What I was slow to appreciate and wish I had understood much sooner," Allen told a black audience last month, "is that this symbol . . . is, for black Americans, an emblem of hate and terror, an emblem of intolerance and intimidation."
Now, even that statement is getting him into trouble.
"He's apologizing to others, certainly he should apologize to us as well," said B. Frank Earnest Sr., the Virginia commander of the confederate group at a news conference. "We're all aware, ourselves included, of the statements that got him into this. The infamous macaca statement. He's using our flag to wipe the muck from his shoes that he's now stepped in."
Over the years, Allen has been a darling of the confederate group. As governor, he designated April as Confederate History Month. He has displayed the battle flag in his home as part of what he said is a flag collection. And his high school yearbook picture shows him wearing a Confederate flag pin.
But the senator has been distancing himself from those symbols as he pursues reelection and considers a bid for the presidency in 2008.
In the past several years, he has co-sponsored legislation condemning the lynching of blacks and has promised to work on similar legislation apologizing for slavery. He recently said of the Confederate flag that "the symbols you use matter because of how others may take them."
Allen's recent statements didn't sit well with the SCV. They accused him yesterday of trying to appeal to liberal voters with his new position.
"The denunciation of the flag to score political points is anathema to our organization," said Brag Bowling, a former past commander of the group.
Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams brushed aside criticisms from the group, saying "Senator Allen stands by his comments."
Even as Allen was getting hammered by the confederates, another person emerged on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" to accuse him of using the N-word.
Patricia Waring, who described herself as the wife of Allen's rugby coach in 1978 and 1979, said she overheard Allen repeatedly using the epithet during a match in 1978. She said she confronted Allen at the time, urging him not to use that word.
"I heard to my left, the N-word, and I heard it again, and I looked around and heard it again," she said. "And there was this fellow sitting on the ground. He was putting on red rugby shoes -- it is seared in my brain, believe me. And he was kind of showing off, I guess, but he was telling a story and . . . in the story was a lot of N-words."
Waring said she is a Democratic activist from Maryland. She said she has had no contact with Webb or his campaign staff.
Asked about Waring's charges, Wadhams said: "It's the latest false accusation. It's patently untrue, made by a self-confessed partisan liberal Democrat."
Peter Schmidt, 58, a former rugby teammate of Allen's, said Thursday night that he did not remember Waring or her husband and said he "never heard anything like that from [Allen]. I just have no way I could possibly believe that."
Also Thursday, a former roommate of Webb's challenged a report that Webb had used the N-word and harassed blacks. An associate of Webb's, Dan Cragg, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that Webb told him he took drives through the black neighborhood of Watts, where he and members of his Reserve Officer Training Corps unit used racial epithets and pointed fake guns at blacks to scare them. Cragg was referred to The Post by the Allen campaign.
Oleg Jankovic, 60, said he was Webb's roommate in 1963 and 1964.
"No. No. It just wasn't happening," Jankovic said of Cragg's allegation. He said Webb once shot rifles into the air from the top of a dorm, but never drove through Watts with one or yelled epithets. "No. Absolutely not."
Also Thursday, black lawmakers in the General Assembly met to discuss whether to endorse Webb. The Democrat has struggled to earn their support because of statements he has made about affirmative action. Members of the black caucus said they would announce a decision Friday.
During the Democratic primary this year, Webb performed poorly in areas of the state heavily populated by blacks after his opponent highlighted comments he had made saying affirmative action is "state-sponsored racism." Webb has since said he supports affirmative action for blacks, but that it should not have been broadened into a larger diversity program.
One member of the caucus, Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III (D-Richmond), has endorsed Allen, saying he was swayed by Allen's efforts to secure money for historically black colleges and universities.