In a November 3 article on how "women's issues and concerns" are affecting the race for U.S. Senate in Virginia, New York Times reporter Robin Toner noted that Sen. George Allen (R-VA) has criticized Democratic candidate Jim Webb's "argument 30 years ago against women in combat and the admission of women to the Naval Academy." Toner went on to cite Webb's response to the criticism -- that "he has changed over the years and that he should be judged by his record of advancing women as secretary of the Navy" -- but simply left out Allen's far more recent statements indicating his opposition to allowing women to serve in combat roles in the military. In a September 18 Times article, Toner similarly highlighted Webb's 1979 position on the issue while ignoring the controversial positions taken by Allen as recently as 2000, as Media Matters for America noted.
From the Times' November 3 article, headlined "In Virginia Race, Women Make the Difference":
The battle for the female vote began in earnest earlier this fall, when the Allen campaign, struggling to regain control of the race after several missteps, took aim at Mr. Webb's argument 30 years ago against women in combat and the admission of women to the Naval Academy.
For much of the fall, commercials have featured retired military women arguing for -- and against -- Mr. Webb, who has said that he has changed over the years and that he should be judged by his record of advancing women when he was secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration.
Toner went on to note that Webb has criticized Allen for repeatedly voting against family and medical leave and quoted an adviser to Webb's campaign saying, "The dilemma for Allen is he's not a moderate on women's issues." Nonetheless, she highlighted the controversy surrounding Webb's 1979 remarks without noting the similar -- and more recent -- comments made by Allen.
Webb made the argument in question in an article titled "Women Can't Fight," which appeared in the November 1979 issue of Washingtonian magazine. In the article, Webb asserted, "There is a place for women in the military, but not in combat," and declared, "I have never met a woman ... whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership." The Allen campaign first "took aim" at Webb on this issue by organizing a September 13 press conference during which female Naval Academy graduates criticized his 1979 position.
In response, the Webb campaign noted that during the 1990s, Allen opposed the admission of female cadets to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Specifically, Allen argued during a 1995 interview with The American Enterprise that "if VMI admitted women, it wouldn't be the VMI that we've known for 154 years. You just don't treat women the way you treat fellow cadets. If you did, it would be ungentlemanly, it'd be improper." Furthermore, in 2000, Allen repeatedly stated his opposition to women serving in combat, as Media Matters documented. Indeed, a candidate guide published by The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Virginia, on November 3, 2000, reported that "Allen is insistent that women should not be involved in direct combat." According to an October 9, 2000, Washington Post article, Allen said women "should not be in foxholes," adding that the "purpose of the armed services is not to be a social experiment."