In 1984, I worked as a contract field consultant for the National Republican Congressional Committee and also as a writer for the Voices for Victory Program in the Reagan-Bush Presidential campaign.
During that time, I attended a meeting of GOP political operatives in Richmond, Virginia. Among those present was a young delegate, George Allen, son of the legendary Washington Redskins coach.
At a cocktail party that followed our meeting, Allen huddled with some other Virginia politicos and GOP operatives and discussed the upcoming Presidential election as well as a field of Democratic candidates that, at the time, featured civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.
"You mark my words," Allen said. "Jesse Jackson can’t win in Virginia. Hell, he’s so far-out that even the niggers won’t vote for him."
A few shuffled their feet and looked away when Allen issued his racial slur. Others laughed. While Allen may have scored as a first-class bigot he failed as a prognosticator. Jackson carried the Virginia Democratic Presidential primary in 1984.
That was my first encounter with a racist named George Allen. Unfortunately, it would not be my last.
In 1991, while serving as Vice President for Political Programs for The National Association of Realtors, I attended a GOP fundraiser where Allen, then running in a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives, was one of the featured guests.
As a representative of the nation’s largest trade association and heading up what was then the country’s largest political action committee, I was often cornered by politicians wanting contributions. George Allen was no exception.
"I need your help and support," he said. "Virginia is an old-fashioned state with traditional ideas. Just because we’ve got a black face in the governor’s mansion doesn’t mean the niggers are taking over." Doug Wilder, America’s first African American Governor, had taken office in Richmond a year earlier.
Some in the group laughed. I walked away. I don’t like racists. Against my recommendations, the Realtors PAC voted to support Allen. I gladly left the association as part of reorganization the following year.
During my next 12 years in Washington, I would run across Allen at one event or another. I tried to stay away from him. I didn’t like him (and still don’t) but all too often found myself nearby when he issued a long string of racial epithets, ethnic slurs and jokes that would qualify as racial harassment in any workplace.
It was not unusual to hear racial slurs at gatherings of Republicans. Many GOP events are all-white. Allen, and others, would call Arabs "rag heads," Afro-Americans "niggers" and homosexuals "fags" or "queers" as part of their normal conversation. They would laugh at each other’s racist jokes. When Allen and another well-known Senate Republican racist, Montana’s Conrad Burns, got together the slurs would fly like confetti through the air.
So it comes as no surprise to me that Allen is in trouble again for his rampant racism. His incredible slurring of a native Virginian of Indian ancestry at a campaign rally is just the latest example of his routine and callous bigotry.
Now Dr. Ken Shelton, a radiologist in Hendersonville, N.C., and a football teammate of Allen at the University of Virginia, says in Salon that the Virginia Senator who wants to be President frequently called black people "niggers" and once stuffed the severed head of a deer into a black household’s oversized mail box. Salon says two other former football players at Virginia back Shelton’s story but did not name them.
Christopher Taylor, an anthropology professor at the Birmingham campus of the University of Alabama, was a graduate student at UVa in the 1980s and told The New York Times and The New Republic he heard Allen comment about some turtles in a pond and say that "around here, only niggers eat ‘em."
Shelton says Allen only used racial slurs when in the company of others whites at UVa. That’s what I found true about Allen over the years. In all-white GOP enclaves, he would let his hair down because he felt safe with others who share his racial bigotry. There’s an unspoken rule that if you want to continue to work in Washington you protect those in power and don’t talk about their dirty little secrets. I no longer work there and am ahsamed that I was involved with, and helped protect the secrets of, those who share such beliefs. Racism and homophobia run roughshod through the Republican Party and are among the reasons I got out of politics and returned to journalism.
Allen Monday issued a denial, claiming he has never used such slurs.
"I don’t ever remember ever using that word," Allen said in a carefully-staged photo op that included black pastors from the Richmond area. "That word was not a part of my vocabulary. It wasn’t then. It hasn’t been since then. And it is not now. It is not who I was and is not who I am."
He’s a liar. Such words have long been part of Allen’s vocabulary. He’s used them often and I, and too many others, have heard him. I would swear to that under oath.
Among the others is noted University of Virginia political scientist and respected commentator Larry Sabato who said Allen used the racial slur in the 1970s.
"The fact is he did use the n-word, whether he’s denying it or not," Sabato told MNBC’s Chris Matthews on Hardball.
The fact is George Allen is a racist, a bigot and a despicable miscreant unfit to hold any elected office. Sadly, he is not the only one found in the halls of power in Washington.
(Updated September 26 at 4:26 a.m. to include new information)