Photo: AP, Meet the Press
Sen. George Allen
Photo: AP, Meet the Press

Sen. Allen coming out of Jewish closet

Republican senator seeking re-election compelled to admit: 'I have Jewish ancestors'

A day after being asked in a debate about his immigrant mother's heritage, Sen. George Allen (R, Virginia) fired back in a written statement Tuesday confirming his Jewish ancestry.


Allen, a Republican seeking re-election in a close race, denounced the reporter's question as "reprehensible" and irrelevant and said he only recently learned that his maternal grandfather was Jewish.


"Whenever we would ask my mother through the years about our family background on her side, the answer always was, `Who cares about that?'" Allen wrote in the statement.



During a debate Monday with Democrat Jim Webb, Allen was indignant when a panelist asked him whether his forebears included Jews. An audience of about 600 business executives booed and hissed at the question from Peggy Fox of WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C.


"To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don't think it's relevant," Allen tersely replied to Fox. "So I'd like to ask you, why is that relevant? My religion? Jim's religion ..." he said as applause drowned out his remarks.


"My mother is French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her," Allen told the panelist, but did not mention any Jewish heritage.


Raised as Christian

On Tuesday, Allen said his mother, Henriette "Etty" Allen, grew up in the Christian faith. She is a French-speaking native of Tunisia.


Allen and his siblings also were raised as Christians. He said he became aware only recently that his grandfather, Felix Lumbroso, who had been imprisoned by the Nazis, was Jewish.


"I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including the Lumbroso family line's Jewish heritage, which I learned of from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed," Allen said in the statement.


Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams would not specify when Allen's mother told him about her ancestry. As a child, Allen knew Lumbroso, who is now deceased, Wadhams said.


Allen accused Webb's campaign of peddling the notion that he is embarrassed by his heritage, a claim Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd rejected as "completely, totally false."


Political reasons?

Fox defended her questions. She said she wanted to determine if there was a political reason Allen was not forthcoming about a Jewish ancestor. "I don't know why it would be so upsetting to him," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I was shocked at how he took offense to the question."


Fox had also asked Allen whether he had learned the word "Macaca" from his mother. Allen had applied the word to a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent during an Aug. 11 rally before a mostly white crowd. In some cultures, including Tunisia, the word is considered a racial slur.


Allen glared at Fox for a moment, and then said, "I hope you're not trying to bring my mother into this matter."


References to the nationality of Allen's mother prompted the first report of his Jewish ancestry on Aug. 25 in The Forward, a Jewish daily newspaper, said its editor, Ami Eden.


"There was some talk at that time that perhaps he picked this up from his mother, and it was an easy way to get to the story behind the headlines," Eden said in a telephone interview from New York.


פרסום ראשון: 09.20.06, 12:28
 new comment
This will delete your current comment