On MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews did not respond when former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie asserted that Sen. George F. Allen (R-VA) does not "have a prejudicial bone in his body." Matthews could have pointed out that -- regardless of Allen's attitudes -- he has taken actions in the past that have provoked strong criticism.
On the August 24 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews failed to respond to former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Ed Gillespie's assertion that Sen. George F. Allen (R-VA) does not "have a prejudicial bone in his body." Regardless of Allen's intentions -- which Media Matters for America does not purport to know -- Allen has engaged in behavior in the past that has resulted in accusations that he has a "race problem," a point that would presumably be relevant in a discussion between Gillespie and Matthews over whether the "macaca" incident would continue to hurt him politically. Among other things, Allen reportedly (subscription required) kept "a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office"; has had an apparently long association with Confederate flag memorabilia and the Confederate States of America; and, while governor, proposed Virginia educational guidelines that would have referred to slaves as "settlers."
During a solo interview with Gillespie, Matthews asked the former RNC chairman to comment on the controversy surrounding Allen's use of the word "macaca" to identify S.R. Sidarth, a volunteer with the campaign of Allen's Democratic Senate challenger Jim Webb. Macaca is a genus of monkey and is also reportedly a slur used in Europe and North Africa against people of African descent. Matthews asked Gillespie to comment on where "this issue" stood, given the fact that Allen "apologized yesterday" for his remarks. Gillespie responded that "I don't think [Allen] even knew that a macaca is a genus of monkey in the northeastern area of Asia, or that in some parts of the world it is a slur." Although he called Allen's remarks "a mistake," Gillespie added: "Does he [Allen] have a prejudicial bone in his body? Absolutely not." Matthews then proceeded to a new line of inquiry, asking Gillespie whether the comment has "hurt him [Allen] in his money raising."
But Allen has provoked outrage with some of his actions as a public figure and has long associated himself with symbols of the Confederacy. In a May 15 article in The New Republic, Ryan Lizza wrote:
In 1994, he [Allen, then governor of Virginia] said he would accept an honorary membership at a Richmond social club with a well-known history of discrimination -- an invitation that the three previous governors had refused. After an outcry, Allen rejected the offer. He replaced the only black member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Board of Visitors with a white one. He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie's "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." There was no mention of slavery. After some of the early flaps, a headline in The Washington Post read, "Governor seen leading VA back in time."
Lizza also reported that "[u]nder educational guidelines proposed by Allen's administration, which were revised after an uproar, students would have been taught that slaves were 'settlers.'"
In a May 8 New Republic article (subscription required), Lizza wrote:
In his first race [for state legislature] in 1979 -- according to Larry Sabato, a UVA professor and college classmate of Allen's -- he ran a radio ad decrying a congressional redistricting plan whose main purpose was to elect Virginia's first post-Reconstruction black congressman. Allen lost that race but was back in 1982 and won the seat by 25 votes.
In 1984, he was one of 27 House members to vote against a state holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "Allen said the state shouldn't honor a non-Virginian with his own holiday." He was also bothered by the fact that the proposed holiday would fall on the day set aside in Virginia to honor Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That same year, he did feel the urge to honor one of Virginia's own. He co-sponsored a resolution expressing "regret and sorrow upon the loss" of William Munford Tuck, a politician who opposed every piece of civil rights legislation while in Congress during the1950s and 1960s and promised "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court's 1954 decision banning segregation.
The May 15 New Republic article cited an April 15, 1995, Washington Post account of how Allen "referred to his neighboring state as 'the counties that call themselves West Virginia,' evoking the old argument that their decision to secede and stay with the Union was illegal."
Lizza also reported May 15 that the Confederate flag appeared in "the very first [television] ad that Allen broadcast in 1993, when he ran for governor." According to Lizza, the ad depicted Allen, "seated at a desk in his home office," with the flag "behind" him, "sit[ting] folded on a bookcase of trophies and bric-a-brac," and visible for "ten seconds of the 60-second commercial." Additionally, in the May 8 New Republic article, Lizza reported that Allen "admitted" -- during his 1993 gubernatorial campaign -- "to prominently displaying" the Confederate flag "in his living room," although Allen claimed it was "part of a flag collection" and that it "had been removed at the start" of the campaign. Lizza further reported that Allen "kept a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office," though Allen "said it was part of a Western memborabilia collection."
The May 15 article also reported that "[a]ccording to two [University of Virginia (UVA)] law school classmates and one undergraduate classmate, Allen displayed the [Confederate] flag on his pickup truck while at UVA." One of Allen's UVA classmates told Lizza the "Confederate flags on the bumpers" of Allen's "old pickup truck" were "notably newer" than the vehicle itself. Lizza also cited "a little-noticed 1993 Los Angeles Times article" reporting that Allen "displayed the Confederate flag in his room at UVA" despite a "hot debate on campus ... over students displaying the Confederate flag at football games," which "caused a near-race riot at one game." Lizza reported that Allen was "a quarterback on the football team" at the time. Lizza further stated that "[i]n the 80's," Allen "famously displayed the Confederate flag" in the living room of his "cabin in Earlysville, Virginia," and that according to a June 27, 2000, Washington Post article describing Allen's remarks at a 2000 Virginia campaign event: "When one man ... said to Allen, 'Long live the Confederate flag!' he replied, 'You got it!' "
Lizza's May 8 article noted that Allen's apparent embrace of the Confederacy did not stem from any hereditary ties to the South. Allen, he wrote, "was born in Whittier, California ... moved to the suburbs of Chicago for eight years ... and arrived in Southern California as a teenager." Allen's father, Lizza reported, "grew up in the Midwest," and his mother, as Media Matters for America previously noted, was born to a French-Italian father and raised in Tunisia, a former French colony in North Africa.
But even in high school, Allen reportedly displayed the Confederate flag. According to high school friends interviewed by Lizza, Allen's Ford Mustang sported a Confederate flag license plate. Another friend told Lizza that Allen "plastered" his high school with "Confederate flags." Lizza also reported that a "smirk[ing]," "[s]eventeen-year-old" Allen wore "a Confederate flag pin" "on his collar" in his high school yearbook photo. Further, Lizza reported that according to "four former classmates and one former administrator at Allen's high school," "the night before a major basketball game" against Morningside High, a "mostly black inner-city school adjacent to Watts" -- the neighborhood rocked by racially-motivated riots in 1965 -- "Allen and some of his friends" spray-painted "racially tinged" graffiti "meant to look like the handiwork of the black Morningside students." One classmate recalled that the graffiti said "something like die whitey," while the administrator recalled a message of "'burn, baby, burn,' a reference to the race riots" in Watts and riots that followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination.
From the August 24 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: You were, I guess, a grand fellow to host George Allen in the midst of all this stink. What's your take on it? He said "macaca." He apologized yesterday. Where does that put this issue?
GILLESPIE: Oh, I think the issue is behind him. The fact is that George Allen is a very smart person and very smart individual, but I don't think even he knew that a "macaca" is a genus of monkey in the northeastern area of Asia or that in some parts of the world it's a slur. Still, it was a mistake to make fun of this young man on the campaign trail, even though he's tweaking his opponent. He apologized for it, apologized to -- to the young man personally yesterday and you know, was it wrong, yes. Does he have a prejudicial bone in his body? Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: You're his fundraiser. To a large extent you would know, if anybody in the planet, whether hurt him fund -- hurt him in his money raising. Has it?