The ghosts of Macaca haunt Virginia

In 2006, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) used a North African pejorative, “macaca,” to describe a person of color, which led folks to wonder what the Southern-accented son of a legendary football coach knew from North African pejoratives, which led to the discovery that Allen’s mother was born Jewish in Tunisia, which led Allen to deny this, emphatically, which all helped lead to his defeat.

Living in the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia, I was rattled — okay, maybe bemused — by this sequence. It was like discovering a rat at Disneyland. Virginia, at least where I sit, is a state with a burgeoning and unabashed Jewish population. The school up the street boasts in a plaque that it was the first in the state to be desegregated. What in the 21st century bugged Allen, exactly, about people of color? Why was he so coy about his Jewish past?

An anomaly? Maybe not.

John Whitbeck, the Republican chairman of Virginia’s Tenth District, today introduced the GOP candidate for Virginia governor with an anti-Semitic joke.

And by anti-Semitic, I mean really anti-Semitic. It’s about Jews presenting the pope with the bill for the Last Supper, so it packs two of the most toxic anti-Jewish stereotypes into a single punchline: God-killers! Cheapskates!

Now this is not a dusty southern corner of the state (although that would hardly excuse it.) The Tenth encompasses a good chunk of the state’s Washington suburbs, which is where a lot of the state’s Jews live, and which is represented in Congress by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who has made a name for himself as a leading advocate of human rights overseas.

Weirdly, at least from what I can make from the video, the joke has absolutely nothing to do with Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia attorney general who is running for governor.

Cuccinelli, a spokesman tells the Washington Post, was not onstage at the time (I guess the inference is that he did not hear the joke, and Whitbeck does appear to be biding time while awaiting Cucinelli’s arrival), does not know Whitbeck and repudiates the joke.

All good for Cuccinelli, except he’s trailing in the polls, and this can’t help.

But it still begs a few questions: Why would someone with the world experience (one would think was) needed to become a district party chairman think this is okay? More creepily, why does everyone laugh so heartily?

Here’s the video:

NEXT STORY