Sen. George Allen apologized Tuesday for remarks that offended a man of Indian descent who was tracking the Republican's re-election campaign for Democratic challenger Jim Webb.
S.R. Sidarth said he felt Allen was singling him out because of his race when the senator called him "Macaca" during a GOP rally Friday at Breaks, Va., near the Kentucky border.
"In no way was it meant to demean him, and I'm sorry if he was offended," Allen said in a telephone interview.
Allen, who is positioning himself for a possible run for president in 2008, said the name was "just made up" and that he had no idea that macaca is a genus of monkeys including macaques. The name also could be spelled Makaka, which is a city in South Africa.
Comments on tape
Webb's campaign distributed to reporters a video clip of Allen's remarks about Sidarth, a 20-year-old University of Virginia senior who spent last week videotaping Allen's "listening tour" for the Webb campaign.
"This fellow over here with the yellow shirt - Macaca or whatever his name is - he's with my opponent," Allen said. "He's following us around everywhere."
After mentioning that Webb was in California on a fundraising trip, Allen exhorted the crowd: "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."
Volunteer speaks out
Sidarth, who was born and raised in Fairfax County, has said he felt Allen was singling him out because he was the only nonwhite in the audience, but an Allen campaign spokesman said not all of the rest of the crowd was white.
On Tuesday, Sidarth said he took little comfort in Allen's attempted amends.
"If he wants to make an apology to me, he can talk to me personally rather than doing this through the press," Sidarth said.
Allen said he would speak personally to Sidarth the next time he sees him at a campaign event.
"I look forward to seeing him," Allen said. "The point of the matter was to chide and poke fun at my opponent, not any of his staff."
Allen, a former Virginia governor, said Tuesday that he was trying to point out that Sidarth was providing Webb "a travelogue" of places the Democrat would never visit.
Sidarth, however, said that "calling me whatever name is the first thing to come into his head has nothing to do with making a travelogue for Mr. Webb."
On Monday, Allen spokesman Dick Wadhams said the name "Macaca" was a variation of "Mohawk," the nickname Allen campaign staffers gave Sidarth for his partially cropped haircut. Allen, however, said Tuesday that he made up the name himself.
Allen has been accused of racial insensitivity before. He wore a Confederate flag pin in his high school yearbook photo, used to keep a Confederate flag in his living room, a noose in his law office and a picture of Confederate troops in his governor's office, but has said he has grown since then.