By BOB LEWIS
Sen. George Allen on Monday denounced as "ludicrously false" allegations from a former college football teammate that he frequently used a racial slur to refer to blacks in the early 1970s and that he once stuffed a severed deer head into a black household’s mailbox.
Allen’s campaign also released statements from four other ex-teammates defending the senator and rejecting Dr. Ken Shelton’s claims. Shelton leveled the allegations against the former University of Virginia quarterback in an article published Sunday in the online magazine Salon.com and during an Associated Press interview Sunday night.
"The story and his comments and assertions in there are completely false," Allen said during an interview with AP reporters and editors. "I don’t remember ever using that word and it is absolutely false that that was ever part of my vocabulary."
The Republican has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008, but questions about racial insensitivity have dogged him during his re-election bid against Democrat Jim Webb.
Allen’s use of the word "macaca" in referring to a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent in August prompted an outcry. The word denotes a genus of monkeys and, in some cultures, is considered an ethnic slur. But the senator insisted he did not know that and had simply made the word up.
Shelton, a Hendersonville, N.C., radiologist who was a tight end and wide receiver for the university in the early 1970s, said Allen used the n-word only around white teammates.
Shelton said the incident with the deer head occurred during their college days when he, Allen and another teammate who has since died were hunting on a farm the third man’s family owned near Bumpass, Va., 40 miles east of the university.
Shelton said Allen asked the other teammate where black families lived in the area, then stuffed a deer’s head into the mailbox of one of the homes.
"George insisted on taking the severed head, and I was a little shocked by that," Shelton said.
"This was just after the movie `The Godfather’ came out with the severed horse’s head in the bed," Shelton told the AP.
He said he came forward because of Allen’s presidential prospects and the "macaca" incident.
"When I saw the look in his eye in that camera and using the word `macaca,’ it just brought back the bullying way I knew from George back then," Shelton said.
Shelton described himself as an independent who has supported Democratic and Republican candidates. He said he regretted that he had not spoken against Allen in the early 1980s, when he was first entering politics. Shelton said he began writing down his recollections as Allen’s career "ascended to heights I never could have imagined."
Other former teammates rushed to the senator’s defense.
Charlie Hale of Abingdon, a college roommate of Shelton’s and an Allen campaign volunteer, said that he had hunted often with Allen, and "there was not even a rumor on the team" about the alleged deer incident.
Doug Jones, another Allen campaign volunteer who said he had roomed with Shelton, also dismissed the allegations. "I never heard George Allen use any racially disparaging word, nor did I ever witness or hear about him acting in a racially insensitive manner," Jones said.
Another former teammate, Gerard R. Mullins of Roanoke, said he recalled nothing racist about him.
"George had a strong personality, and I guess that’s why he was a quarterback," Mullins, who is not close with Allen, said in a telephone interview.
Sometimes, he said, Allen was confrontational with teammates.
"He would kind of pick on everyone a little just to get a reaction," said Mullins, a defensive back. "From a football standpoint, if you were black or white it didn’t matter: if you dropped a pass, he’d have something to say to you."
Shelton’s claims came a week after a debate in which Allen bristled at questions about his Jewish ancestry. Allen later acknowledged publicly for the first time that his grandfather, a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, was Jewish, and on Monday he said both his maternal grandparents were Jews.
Explaining his initial reaction, Allen has said his mother swore him to secrecy when she told him about his ancestry last month.
Allen’s father, the late George H. Allen, was a legendary football coach with the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins. Allen transferred from the University of California, Los Angeles, to Virginia when his father took the Redskins job.