- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The leader of an Indian-American political group said yesterday that Sen. George Allen has been supportive of his community’s concerns but will have to regain its trust and votes after making a racially insensitive comment.

“This kind of statement puts everything into a wash, so we need to work with him so we can rebuild the relationship,” said Sanjay Puri, chairman of the U.S. India Political Action Committee.

Mr. Allen, a Republican, has since apologized to the Indian-American community and to S.R. Sidarth, a staffer for challenger James H. Webb Jr. Mr. Allen called Mr. Sidarth a “macaca” at a rally last week in the southwestern Virginia town of Breaks.

“This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is, he’s with my opponent,” Mr. Allen said. “He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great. … Let’s give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”

Mr. Sidarth, a Virginia native of Indian descent, was recording Mr. Allen’s speech for Mr. Webb, a Democrat.

One interpretation of macaca is a species of monkey.

“I never want to embarrass or demean anyone,” Mr. Allen said earlier this week. “I apologize if my comments offended this young man.”

Mr. Allen also said he was attempting to refer to Mr. Sidarth’s haircut, which has prompted Allen staffers to give him the nickname “Mohawk.”

Mr. Puri said he has received hundreds of e-mails in which Indian-Americans voiced “anger, hurt” and said they were “upset.” There are about 48,000 Indian-Americans in Virginia, according to the 2000 census.

Political analyst Robert Holsworth is not sure whether the comments will hurt Mr. Allen in the Senate race. According to the most recent poll, he leads Mr. Webb by double digits.

“It’s not so clear that the election is going to turn on this at all,” said Mr. Holsworth, dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University.

He said a big factor is whether Mr. Webb has enough campaign money to take advantage of the political gaffe.

Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, a Democratic strategist from the southwestern part of the state, said Mr. Allen’s remarks will hurt him at the polls.

“He is not a Southerner, and for him to tarnish our culture when he is not a part of it is offensive,” Mr. Saunders said. “He comes here trying to talk like he is one of us, but this will do a good job to separate him from our culture because our culture is not about racism.”

Mr. Webb said after a speech yesterday at the Kiwanis Club of Arlington that he did not know whether he would use the video as part of his campaign.

“The only thing I have to say about that is: [Mr. Allen] knew what he was saying because he said it twice, and it’s up to him to clarify it.”

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