Former Virginia Governor (and current Senate hopeful) George Allen has stuck at least several toes in his mouth, offending local Washington, DC NBC anchor Craig Melvin by asking him what position he played. The problem is that Melvin, who is black, never played sports, and he’s apparently already told Allen so. Melvin tweeted Tuesday, “For the 2nd time in 5 months, fmr. gov. and sen candidate George Allen asks me,’what position did you play?’ I did not a play a sport.”
Allen has since tweeted an apology, but given his “Macaca guy” alter ego, will people give him the benefit of the doubt?
The exchange in question likely occurred sometime off-camera during, or after, the filming of this report on Allen’s Senate run:
Allen’s apology. Melvin has re-tweeted Allen’s mea culpa twice, without comment:
“@georgeallenva:sorry if I offended, ask people a lot if they played sports Grew up in fball family found sports banter good way to connect”
Many people can relate to an explanation like this. I recall, several months ago, that I nearly asked Ed Schultz the same question at the White House when struggling for small talk. Schultz has the build of a former athlete, after all, and the only other thing I could think to ask was “What the hell are you doing here?”
But, then again, I’m not “the Macaca guy,” and Schultz isn’t a member of a race that has been stereotyped as automatically suited to athletics. Plus, as Melvin points out, he had already told Allen, rather recently, that he wasn’t an athlete.
Whether or not Allen has earned the benefit of the doubt in this situation, he’s not likely to get it, and that may end up being okay for Allen. As I’ve said before, by running Allen against Tim Kaine for Senate, the Republicans seem to be rolling the “Southern Strategy” dice one more time, betting that by strongly linking Democratic candidate Tim Kaine to Barack Obama, and running a candidate like Allen, they can energize the kind of voters who might overlook, or even rally behind, the “Macaca guy.”
Update: I feel like I should clarify my Ed Schultz anecdote, in particular my internal query “What the hell are you doing here?” That’s the question that goes through my head whenever I see someone at the White House who usually isn’t there. Often, it means something’s up. For example, any time I see Dana Milbank there, I know there’s some kind of freakshow going down, because he shows up like a Grim Trainwreck Reaper. The question wasn’t a slam on Schultz.
Have a tip we should know? email@example.com