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Rediff.com  » News » Senator apologises personally to Indian American

Senator apologises personally to Indian American

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August 24, 2006 11:57 IST

Less than two days after he promised in an exclusive interview with rediff.com, that he would personally apologise to a young Indian American campaign volunteer from his opponent's camp for using racially loaded remarks, Senator George Allen, Virginia Republican and 2008 Presidential hopeful, has done just that.

Allen is an influential member of the Foreign Relations Committee and was the first to co-sponsor the US-India civilian nuclear agreement enablign legislation in the US Senate.
 
Allen on Wednesday, hours before a major Fairfax County fundraiser on his behalf, headlined by President Bush, called 20-year-old Shekar Sidarth and apologised directly to him, saying he was sorry 'from the bottom of (my) heart', for offending him. His remarks had led to Allen being pilloried across the nation -- with editorials in The Washington Post, New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, in addition to several local and regional newspapers, TV stations and blogs -- for being racially insensitive.
 
At a rally on August 11, Allen introduced Sidarth, a volunteer in the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb saying, "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt -- Macaca or whatever his name is -- he's following us around everywhere."
 
"Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," he finished up saying, while his supporters, the majority of them white, applauded and sniggered.
 
Macaca is the common name of a monkey found in Asia. In Africa, it is also a common racist insult in French used to describe Africans in a derogatory manner. Allen, in the interview with rediff.com, said he had no idea what Macaca meant and that he was not aware that Sidarth was an Indian born in America and a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Virginia, of which Allen is an alumnus.
 
When rediff.com pushed him and asked him if he would directly apologise to Sidarth in addition to the public apologies he had made in statement to The Washington Post and during a meeting of Indian American businesspeople and community leaders, Allen said, "I look forward to seeing him (Sidarth) on the campaign trail and I'm going to personally talk to him and apologise."
 
When informed that Sidarth would no longer be on the campaign trail because he intends to return to college next week, Allen said if they did not meet again, he would call him and personally say he's sorry - "I am truly remorseful, I am truly sorry that it happened. It was a mistake and it was so contrary to what I truly believe."
 
Sidarth told The Washington Post after Allen called him and apologised, "His main point was he was sorry he offended me. He realised how much he offended me from the comments I made in the media."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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