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GOP steers clear of candidate statements on profiling

Brian Beutler
Published: Wednesday August 23, 2006

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After a string of embarrassments over what critics have denounced as racially insensitive statements by candidates, RAW STORY has learned that Republican leadership is keeping its distance from statements by lesser-known candidates that may be perceived as racially insensitive.

Speaking last week at a fundraiser in southwestern Virginia, Senator George Allen gestured to a staffer for opponent James Webb, referring to him as “macaca”, an epithet used by French-speaking northern Africans to describe local natives. The staffer, S.R. Sidarth, an American of south Asian descent, videotaped the incident.

Last week, at a meeting with Indian Americans near Washington, D.C., Allen apologized for his remarks, saying, “It was a mistake, it was wrong, and it was hurtful to people.” Allen denies knowing the meaning of the slur, insisting instead that the statement was an accident, and has not apologized for its racial connotations.

Also last week, in an event that took place after the Allen incident, Tramm Hudson, the Republican frontrunner in the Florida congressional race to replace Katherine Harris, was caught on video saying, “I know from experience that blacks are not the greatest swimmers, or may not even know how to swim.”

He soon apologized in a statement released by his campaign: "I said something stupid. I apologize for it and would apologize in person to anyone hurt by my comments.”

But other Republican hopefuls may have found themselves without national party support after issuing a different category of racially charged statement.

Those candidates have gone on record in support of screening Arab and Muslim airline passengers as a response to a bomb plot was thwarted in London last week. They are finding themselves without support from Republican leadership, sources from at least one camp tell RAW STORY.

Mark Flanagan, who is competing against Hudson in the thirteenth district in Florida, released a statement which reads in part, “it is a fact that over the past 34 years, starting with the Munich Olympics, the majority of terrorist attacks have been carried out by Muslims.”

Similarly, referring to the same issue on a local radio segment, Republican Paul Nelson, who is running in the third district of Wisconsin suggested that, “if [a passenger] comes in wearing a turban and his name is Muhammad,” he should be subjected to more rigorous security measures.

Spokespeople for the Republican National Committee refused to comment. But David Johnson, who works for Flanagan, told RAW STORY that support for their campaign on this issue has come not from national Republican organizations, but from conservative interest groups: “The NRCC hasn’t issued support yet, but we’ve gotten support from Concerned Women for America, Gunowners of America PAC, and the American Israeli Organization.”

A spokesman told RAW STORY that NRCC does not take stances on matters of policy.

Seton Motley, former Republican strategist and editor of the conservative site www.newsoftheday.org has suggested to RAW STORY that, though racial profiling at airports might be a policy that sells well with conservative voters in certain districts, it’s likely not going to be a part of national GOP campaign strategy.

Motley drew a distinction between the policy of racial profiling and the utterance of racial slurs: “What Cheney said was that Lieberman’s defeat sends a message to al Qaeda, and it’s a fair point. But when these smaller candidates make racist statements their poll numbers drop.”

When asked whether Republican Party leadership would prefer the former message to the latter, he added, “I think that’s probably right.”