Senator Declines Thurgood Marshall Foundation Award

RICHMOND, Va.

Sen. George Allen of Virginia last week declined an award from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund after an outcry over his selection for the honor.

Allen, a Republican seeking re-election this fall, decided to forgo the award he was to receive this week after being told donors to the fund threatened to withhold contributions if he received it.

“The foundation told the senator that they’ve been catching a lot of static from members and some of their donors, and before it spins into a week of controversy, we just decided to decline it,” said Allen’s Senate spokesman, John Reid.

Allen ascribed the reaction to political adversaries in an election year.

“I regret that there are those who would put their personal or political dislike of me ahead of the needs of deserving students and I do not want to be the cause of any controversy which could in any way harm the efforts to help these young people,” Allen said in a one-paragraph statement distributed by his Senate office.

Allen’s decision came almost three weeks after he singled out a Virginia-born college student of Indian descent to a mostly white crowd at a campaign rally and twice applied the name “Macaca” to him.

Macaca is a genus of monkeys that includes macaques, and is also considered a racial slur in some parts of the world.

Democrats and minority groups across the nation criticized Allen for a gaffe that some recent polls indicate has weakened his re-election campaign and threatens any plans he has for a presidential bid in 2008.

Allen apologized publicly and in a private phone call to S.R. Sidarth, 20, who was a volunteer for the campaign of Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb. Sidarth, who has since begun his senior year at the University of Virginia, had been following Allen and videotaping his campaign appearances. Sidarth recorded the remarks, and Webb’s campaign later posted the video on the Internet.

The uproar over Allen’s selection for the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund’s Community Leadership Award illustrates the lingering resentment over the incident that still bedevils him.

This week’s edition of the Richmond Free Press, a weekly newspaper that serves the city’s black readers, made Allen’s choice as the award recipient its lead front-page story under the banner headline “Unbelievable.”

In the story, King Salim Khalfani, the state NAACP executive director, was quoted as saying he would try “to make sure this award was rescinded.”

A telephone message left at Khalfani’s office Thursday evening was not immediately returned.

The New York-based scholarship fund is named for the civil rights lawyer who successfully argued the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling ended racial segregation in public schools. Marshall later became the Supreme Court’s first African-American justice.

Marshall’s son, John Marshall, is Virginia’s secretary of public safety.

–Associated Press

 

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