Senator George Allen, R - VA, may harbor more unsavory prejudices than his now famous "macaca" remark would suggest. Hurling a racial epithet at a dark skinned young American of Indian origin shows Allen's contempt for the heritage of others. But the latest revelations about the Allen family's efforts at denying its Jewish roots illustrates Allen's shame and discomfort with his own ancestry. Allen has always paraded himself as a red, white and blue child of the American South although he grew up in southern California. The son of a tough football coach, a Confederate flag on his pick up truck and a noose hanging from a tree outside his law office - all added to his persona of a tobacco chewing, cowboy boot wearing, horse riding good ol' boy. How much more red blooded southern Christian can one be? But Allen's mother is French-Italian-Spanish- Jewish and grew up in Tunisia. He has acknowledged all of the above hyphenated components of his mother's heritage except the Jewish one.
Last Monday, during a televised debate with his Democratic challenger Jim Webb, Allen had the following exchange with reporter Peggy Fox, who also asked him if he had learnt the word "macaca" from his French speaking mother. I watched the debate. Allen was seething when asked about "macaca" and his mother's religious roots. Here is more from Washington Post's Dana Milbank about Allen's reaction to Fox's question.
"You've been quoted as saying your mother's not Jewish, but it had been reported her father, your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish," Fox asked Allen. "Could you please tell us whether your forebearers include Jews, and if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?"
Allen recoiled as if he had been struck. His supporters in the audience booed and hissed. "To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don't think is relevant," Allen said, furiously. "Why is that relevant -- my religion, Jim's religion or the religious beliefs of anyone out there?"
"Honesty, that's all," questioner Fox answered, looking a bit frightened.
"Oh, that's just all? That's just all," the senator mocked, pressing his attack. He directed Fox to "ask questions about issues that really matter to people here in Virginia" and refrain from "making aspersions."
Allen repeated what he has said in the past: "My mother's French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her. And I was raised as she was, as far as I know, raised as a Christian."
Aspersions? Being Jewish is a crime? I agree with George Allen that a candidate's religion is not relevant. (How I wish ALL Americans agreed so that we'd be mercifully spared the hypocrisy of our "devout" politicians.) If so, why is Allen so angry and why did he feel the need to lie? Also please note that Allen's supporters in the audience booed at Fox's question. As if raising the possibility of a Jewish heritage is an insult to the senator! Now Allen claims that he did not know about his mother's Jewish family until recently - in late August of this year. But the above debate was last Monday, on the 18th of September at which time he was aware of the truth. So why did he not acknowledge it then? (The full Washington Post story here)
"Henrietta "Etty" Allen said Wednesday that she concealed her upbringing as a Jew in North Africa from her children, including Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), until a conversation across the dining room table in late August.
She said Allen asked her directly about his Jewish heritage when he was in Los Angeles for a fundraiser. "We sat across the table and he said, 'Mom, there's a rumor that Pop-pop and Mom-mom were Jewish and so were you,' " she recalled, a day after Allen issued a statement acknowledging and embracing his Jewish roots as he campaigns for a second term in the U.S. Senate.
At the table in Palos Verdes, Calif., Allen's mother, who is 83, said she told her son the truth: That she had been raised as a Jew in Tunisia before moving to the United States. She said that she and the senator's father, famed former Redskins coach George Allen, had wanted to protect their children from living with the fear that she had experienced during World War II. Her father, Felix Lumbroso, was imprisoned by the Nazis during the German occupation of Tunis.
"What they put my father through. I always was fearful," Etty Allen said in a telephone interview. "I didn't want my children to have to go through that fear all the time. When I told Georgie, I said, 'Now you don't love me anymore.' He said, 'Mom, I respect you more than ever.' "
Allen's heritage became an issue in the Virginia Senate campaign Monday, when television reporter Peggy Fox raised it at a televised debate in front of 600 business executives in Fairfax County. Allen repeated what he has said in the past: "My mother's French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her. And I was raised as she was, as far as I know, raised as a Christian."
In fact, Allen had just recently learned about their Jewish roots when he made those comments. Allen declined to comment, but his mother said she had sworn him to secrecy.
"Allen's Jewish heritage has been a subject of low-level political speculation for years, in part because the former governor and first-term senator often refers to his grandfather's incarceration by the Nazis in political speeches. But Allen has always said Lumbroso was a member of the Free French resistance movement and insisted that he and his mother were raised as Christians..."