Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Allen denies making racially-charged remark


Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia)

From The Morning Grind

Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) denied he used a racially-charged remark last week to describe a campaign worker for his Democratic opponent, saying in a statement released Tuesday afternoon that his comments "have been greatly misunderstood by members of the media."

Allen referred to S.R. Sidarth, a volunteer on Democrat Jim Webb's Senate campaign, as "Macaca" on two occasions during an event on Friday in Breaks, located in the southwest corner of Virginia. In an e-mail sent to political supporters Monday, the Webb campaign questioned whether Allen was using a racial slur to describe Sidarth, who is of Indian descent, as a monkey.

Sidarth was taping Allen with a hand-held video camera, a standard campaign practice that is often used by opponents for research purposes, as the senator campaigned throughout the state for a second term. He captured Allen's comments on camera and the Webb campaign provided a link to the video in the e-mail sent out Monday.

"This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is," said Allen, who at times pointed directly at the camera. "He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great."

After suggesting Webb has not visited many parts of the state and has no intention of doing so, as well as criticizing his opponent for meeting with "a bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," the senator turned back to the camera and addressed Sidarth. "Let's give a welcome to Macaca, here," Allen said. "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

Macaca is a class of monkey, including the rhesus monkey.

In the four-paragraph statement issued Tuesday, Allen said, "In singling out the Webb campaign's cameraman, I was trying to make the point that Jim Webb had never been to that part of Virginia -- and I encouraged him to bring the tape back to Jim and welcome him to the real world of Virginia and America, outside the Beltway, where he has rarely visited.

"I also made up a nickname for the cameraman, which was in no way intended to be racially derogatory. Any insinuations to the contrary are completely false."

And Allen said it "was certainly not my intent" to offend anyone by the remark.

"On every stop on my Listening Tour, I have talked about one of my missions for this country -- to make it a land of opportunity for all," Allen said in the statement. "I have worked very hard in the Senate to reach out to all Americans -- regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or gender. And I look forward to continuing to advocate this important mission for America's future.

As for Sidarth, Allen said, "I never want to embarrass or demean anyone and I apologize if my comments offended this young man. Even though he has signed onto my opponent's campaign, I look forward to seeing him on the trail ahead."

In an interview with CNN's Andrea Koppel just a few hours before Allen released his statement, Sidarth said he had introduced himself to Allen days prior to the incident.

"He was doing that because he could, because he could get away with it," Sidarth said. "I think he was just trying to, trying to point out the fact that I was a person of color, in a crowd that was not otherwise."

In a follow-up interview after Allen released the statement, Sidarth told the Grind he did not view it as an adequate apology. "First of all, if he is going to single me out in a crowd of 100 people he ought to apologize to me personally," Sidarth said.

Added Webb campaign manager Jessica Vanden Berg, "From my perspective, if a U.S. Senator wanted to directly apologize to somebody he would do so. Sidarth has not been apologized to."

In addition, Vanden Berg said Webb's "family and roots are in southwestern Virginia," and he has lived in Falls Church "for a number of years. During Webb's campaign, she said, "he has traveled extensively throughout Virginia.

"So to say that Jim doesn't know Virginia is a lie," Vanden Berg added.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/16/2006 09:35:00 AM ET | Permalink
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