Former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) apologized Friday for the gaffe that led to his 2006 loss to now-Sen. Jim Webb (D).
Now running to replace the retiring Webb, Allen told the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, D.C., that he was wrong to call an Indian-American Webb volunteer who had been following him with a video camera “macaca.”
“During my last campaign, I never should have singled out that young man working for my opponent,” Allen said. “He was just doing his job. I was wrong to do that to him, and it diverted our campaign away from the real issues. Speaking of families, my family had to endure a lot of taunts and insults because of my mistake.”
The campaign, Allen said, helped him learn about his family’s history and made him “even more sensitive and committed to religious freedom.” Politically, it was a major contributing factor to his re-election loss and also upended his 2008 presidential aspirations.
But Allen is back, and if he can get through the Republican primary, he will likely face fellow former Gov. Tim Kaine (D), who left his position as chairman of the Democratic National Committee to run for the open Senate seat.
“These last five years have given me the opportunity to reflect on all that's happening in our great country,” Allen said. “I’ve been able to listen to people like you express all sorts of fears and frustrations.”
Allen said Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed told him this two-day conference was like an NFL minicamp for conservative activists, who are training to help elect Republicans in 2012.
Allen, the son of an NFL coach and brother of the general manager of the Washington Redskins, called the metaphor “perfect.”