Swiftboated? Allen roiled by racist allegations
There's more bad news for Senator George Allen, who's spent the last several weeks of his campaign first doing damage control for his "Macaca" incident and then adjusting to news that he's from a Jewish family. Today, on the webzine Salon, three of Allen's former UVA football teammates say the Senator displayed racist attitudes– and took at least one racist action– when he played for the Cavaliers in the early 1970s.
"Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place,'" Dr. Ken Shelton told Salon.com. According the the article, Shelton, a white radiologist now living in North Carolina, played tight end for the UVA football team when Allen was quarterback, and recalls that Allen "used the N-word on a regular basis back then."
The other two teammates, who spoke to Salon on condition of anonymity, also recalled Allen's use of the "N-word," but Shelton's memories are the most detailed. He claims Allen gave him the nickname "Wizard" because he shares a last name with 1960s KKK Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton.
The most disturbing of Ken Shelton's recollections, however, is of a hunting trip he took with Allen and a third white teammate. Shelton tells Salon that after the trio had killed a deer, Allen asked where black residents lived. He then stuffed the severed head of the doe into their mailbox.
According to the article, in the week before publication, Salon reporters interviewed 19 former UVA teammates and college friends of Allen. In addition to Shelton and the two who said Allen used the word "nigger," two others claimed they were bothered by his display of the Confederate flag. Seven said they didn't know Allen well but didn't recall him making racist comments. Seven said they were close friends and had never heard or seen an indication that Allen was racist.
Allen's campaign did not return calls from either Salon or the Hook. However, in a press conference reported by the Associated Press, Allen called Shelton's assertions "ludicrously false" and claimed he never used racial slurs.
A campaign spokesperson for Jim Webb, Allen's opponent for the Virginia Senate seat he's held since 2000, declined to comment directly on allegations in the Salon article. "Jim is in Hampton Roads talking to constituents about economic fairness," says Kristian Denny Todd. "His message is a positive one, and has the right kind of values that line up with most Virginians' values."
Allen's attitudes made headlines in late August when he referred to a UVA student and Webb campaigner as "Macaca," and incident that made headlines across the country. S.R. Siddarth, a student of Indian descent, was following Allen on the campaign trail.
Last week, Allen again made headlines when he finally acknowledged that his mother was raised Jewish in Tunisia during WWII, something she never told him, he said, until this past summer.
Daily Progress reporter Bob Gibson first reported on Allen's Jewish roots three years ago, but at Allen's behest the paper ran a correction.
Shelton's controversial recollections coming on the heels of the two previous issues is "dreadful timing for George Allen," says Joshua Scott, director of programs for UVA's Center for Politics. If Allen hopes to defeat Webb in November, the questions about his past and his racial views need to be quelled.
"The reality is we're still 40 days out from the election, so there's time for Allen to recover from this, espeically if the allegations are false," says Scott. "But if this is still a story we're talking about two weeks from now, Allen's in a lot of trouble."