George Allen is really sorry about that macaca thing. Five years after he threw the slur at a Democratic tracker during the 2006 Senate campaign, Allen offered a long and emotional apology to a small crowd at the Faith and Family Conference.
“During our last campaign, I never should have singled out that young man working for my opponent calling him a name,” said Allen, who’s running again for the seat he lost in 2006. “He was just doing his job.”
The incident became national news and arguably derailed Allen’s run for another term in the Senate against challenger Jim Webb. Now, as he gears up his 2012 campaign, Allen is speaking about the incident with a sense of contrition that was absent from his 2006 bid.
“I was wrong to do that to him,” Allen said of the macaca moment, “and it diverted our campaign away from the real issues that families care about.”
Allen said his personal life suffered after the macaca incident, just as his professional life did.
“Speaking of families, my family had to endure a lot of taunts and insults because of my mistake,” he said. “And I never want to have them go through something like that again.”
Allen also reflected on another controversial episode from the 2006 campaign, the revelation that his mother was raised Jewish. At the time, some critics accused him of hiding his mother’s religion because of what they suggested was a fear that the truth would be a political liability. Allen has since embraced his Jewish heritage. He referred to his ancestry — which his mother kept hidden from him until 2006 — in Friday’s address to the conservative crowd.
“I saw my dear mother, those terrifying experiences that the Nazis imposed on [her family], still leaving scars and wounds that continued to hurt her,” he said. “She had an enduring fear that caused her to believe that the best way to protect her children was to conceal my grandfather’s — her father’s — Jewish faith and ancestry. This revelation, though, really did bring our family closer together.”
He wrapped the story in a nice friendly package for the Christian voters in the audience.
“For me, the core principle of freedom of religion was no longer just a matter of enlightened Jeffersonian philosophy,” Allen said. “It became personal in so many ways.”
Allen said the experiences of 2006 have made him “more committed than ever to the principle of religious freedom” and “the dignity of every person, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religious beliefs.”
“When injustice or the ugly head of anti-semitism, racism or repression arises, leaders must deplore it,” he said. “Otherwise people will think it’s condoned or accepted.”
Watch Allen’s apology: