Allen Embraces Jewish Ancestry

A day after getting angry when a reporter asked about his mother’s Jewish heritage and his campaign called that a “smear,” Senator George Allen now says he “embraces and takes pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage.”

Allen’s campaign manager said the senator believed the question was hostile because it followed another one about whether Allen had learned the word “macaca” from his mother. The word, which Allen used last month to describe a Webb volunteer, is a French slur for a dark-skinned person. Allen’s mother, Henrietta “Etty” Allen, is a native of Tunisia and speaks French.

In a statement released by his campaign yesterday, Allen said he was proud to have recently discovered that his grandfather, an anti-Nazi resistance fighter in North Africa, was part of a well-known Jewish family. “I was raised as a Christian and my mother was raised as a Christian,” Allen, 54, said. “And I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line’s Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed.”


Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams said, “Saying your mother was a racist. That was exactly the intent and the thrust of the question. Then she [Fox] went on to introduce religion. Introducing religion at all into the debate was inappropriate.”

Allen’s handling of this and the Macaca flap have been inept for someone so experienced in high office; the man has been a state governor and a United States Senator. Still, candidates get tired and say stupid things.

That Wadham has repeatedly flubbed his job of spin control, though, is inexcusable. He’s supposed to be a dispassionate manager who cooly assesses the situation and diffuses it. Instead, he repeatedly rubs salt in the wound. It’s probably too late for firing him to do any good but it couldn’t hurt.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Allen is probably making reservations for a seat at the synagogue for Yom Kippur services right now.

  2. Anderson says:

    Wadham hasn’t done a great job, but then, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear is a lot to ask.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: But you can do no harm. Yelling at the press, lying to them, and just being a jerk are guaranteed to backfire. It’s just insane.

  4. Anderson says:

    Yelling at the press, lying to them, and just being a jerk are guaranteed to backfire.

    Wait, I thought that was Allen?

  5. legion says:

    Wait, I thought that was Allen?

    No, that was Cheney 🙂

  6. Anderson says:

    Come now, Legion–“backfire” is a particularly inappropriate context in which to mention Cheney.

  7. davod says:

    I would suggest that Allen’s response was indeed appropriate. I would also suggest that his response and follow-up will only be good for the campaign.

    Compare that to Web and women and I think Allen will be ahead on election day.

  8. Kent G. Budge says:

    When I read that Allen was furious over being “accused” of having Jewish ancestry, my first thought was a sardonic Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    I wonder if he’s realized the potential backlash here, and this accounts for his clumsy backpeddling?

    In any case, I’m inclined to take Allen off my “could vote for in the primary” list.

  9. legion says:

    Hah! Good one, Anderson!

    It’s probably too late for firing him to do any good but it couldn’t hurt.
    I think that line might be more appropriate for Cheney OTOH…