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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
 
Just Asking Questions

Dana Milbank tries to excuse the inexcusable:

At a debate in Tysons Corner yesterday between Republican Allen and Democrat Webb, WUSA-TV's Peggy Fox asked Allen, the tobacco-chewing, cowboy-boot-wearing son of a pro football coach, if his Tunisian-born mother has Jewish blood.

"It has been reported," said Fox, that "your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish. Could you please tell us whether your forebears include Jews and, if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?"

Allen recoiled as if he had been struck. His supporters in the audience booed and hissed. "To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don't think is relevant," Allen said, furiously. "Why is that relevant -- my religion, Jim's religion or the religious beliefs of anyone out there?"

"Honesty, that's all," questioner Fox answered, looking a bit frightened.


Yes, that's it, it's all about the honesty. Note that Milbank admits the question was out of place, but goes on to speculate why Allen got upset:

Fox's question, while a matter of some intrigue, seemed out of place in the debate, which focused on more urgent matters such as Iraq. But Allen turned on the questioner with ferocity. He may have been irked that the question was a follow-up to one noting that "macaca" was a racial slur that his mother may have learned in Tunisia. He may have been concerned that Jewish roots wouldn't play well in parts of Virginia.

He may have also felt that his mother's religion is not a proper subject for debate. This strikes me as very similar to John Kerry and John Edwards both bringing up during debates the fact that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter; a not-so-subtle appeal to prejudice.

Milbank turns the situation around so it seems like Fox was the victim:

"I was shocked," she said after the event. Disclosing that her great-grandfather was a Mormon polygamist, she added: "Why would he get so angry at the suggestion there might be something in your background that's Jewish? I don't think that's a bad thing at all."

He got angry because it's irrelevant, just as the fact that she had a great-grandfather who was a polygamist is irrelevant.

Update: Dean Barnett gets it.

A few quick points of personal analysis. As a Jew, I found Fox’s question profoundly offensive. Trust me, the wounded minority card is not one that I play with much frequency. But the attempt to "tar" Allen as a Jew in a southern state was at the very least disturbing, and I actually consider it sickening. Furthermore, I think asking the question was a hanging offense professionally, and I hope whoever employs Peggy Fox has seen enough of her judgment to deeply ponder severing their relationship with her.
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