The macaca offensive

Yesterday Salon Washington correspondent Michael Scherer emailed us his hit piece on Senator Allen: “Teammates: Allen used ‘N’ word in college.” I read the story last night when Scherer emailed it and was struck by the fact that it was based on one named source and two anonymous sources, one of whom “spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retribution from the Allen campaign” and the other of whom “also spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of being attacked by the Virginia senator.” Ooh, scary!

I wasn’t impressed by the credibilty of Scherer’s tale of George Allen’s now 35-year-old college days or the reliability of Scherer’s anonymous sources. It struck me as a variant of the kind of prefabricated reportage that had Karl Rove the subject of a sealed indictment a few months ago, though Scherer has one on-the-record source for the story. Sixteen Allen teammmates who either deny that Allen spoke in the manner indicated or “don’t remember” Allen speaking as the sources allege apparently count for little in this context. Why, some of them recall Allen displaying the Confederate flag in college! Now comes Jon Henke at the Allen campaign blog to respond to Scherer’s story: “Webb’s dirty tricksters: Salon.” And Senator Allen himself has denied the story.

The Washington Post story on the Scherer’s Salon report carries Senator Allen’s denial that he intended offense with respect to his use of the term “macaca”:

“I would never use a word — I would never use a word that in any — if I had any inkling, any idea that the word would be offensive to someone, I would not use it,” he told Wolf Blitzer, the host of The Situation Room. “It’s not who I am. It’s not how I was raised. My mother raised us in tolerance, and the concept of freedom and tolerance, I learned that from my mother.”

Scherer’s story would of course go nowhere without the relentless media “macaca” offensive against Senator Allen. What next? Superimpose the story of George Allen’s concealed ethnic heritage over Scherer’s story and I can anticipate the next big story of this campaign: Hoary friends of Etty Allen vividly recall her referring in Yiddish (or the Ladino equivalent) to the Allen family maid as a “schwartze,” casting doubt on Senator Allen’s invocation of his mother’s teaching.

UPDATE: I see that I am thinking along the same lines as Dean Barnett, but that Dean is going farther and deeper: “Allen-Webb: Still depths to plumb.”

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