CNN national correspondent Bob Franken quoted Doug Jones, a former football teammate of Sen. George Allen's, defending Allen against the charge that Allen has expressed racist views. But Franken failed to identify Jones as a Republican official and member of Allen's re-election campaign.
In a report that aired twice during the September 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room and on the September 27 edition of CNN Newsroom about Sen. George Allen's (R-VA) reported use of a racial epithet while attending the University of Virginia, CNN national correspondent Bob Franken quoted Doug Jones, who played with Allen on the university's football team, defending Allen against the charge that Allen has expressed racist views. But Franken failed to identify Jones as a member of Allen's re-election campaign and GOP chairman in the Mount Vernon District section of Fairfax County, Virginia.
A September 24 Salon.com article by Washington correspondent Michael Scherer quoted three former teammates of Allen's saying that he had used racial epithets during the 1970s. In a September 26 follow-up article, Scherer noted that Jones was listed on the Virginia GOP website as "Unit Operations Co-Chair for the Allen campaign in Fairfax County," and was one of four former Allen teammates who said they had never heard Allen use any racial epithets that were listed in a September 25 Allen campaign press release. CNN's Situation Room report quoted Jones saying, "In all the time that I've known Senator Allen, I've never heard him use a disparaging word. I've never witnessed him act in a racially insensitive manner to anyone." But CNN identified Jones only as a former teammate of Allen's who had "stepped forward to vigorously deny Allen was ever racist" at "[the campaign's] behest."
The CNN reports differed slightly in their treatment of the reaction to the controversy by Allen's Democratic opponent, James Webb.
From the 7 p.m. ET segment of the September 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
FRANKEN (voiceover): Senator George Allen was doing his level best to stay out of the limelight. He's got plenty of wounds to lick: the "macaca" ones, the denying his Jewish ancestry ones, and the newest one, the charge from some former football teammates from his days at the University of Virginia in the early '70s.
KEN SHELTON (former teammate of Allen's): I feel then, now, that George was a racist.
FRANKEN: Dr. R. Kendall Shelton, who is now a North Carolina radiologist, is one of two who says that Allen used the N-word often. Shelton claimed that Allen beheaded a deer in one incident in rural Virginia and asked where the nearest black house was.
SHELTON: George drove his van to that location, opened a large mailbox, and pushed the severed doe's head into the mailbox.
FRANKEN: This poisonous drumbeat has transformed what was supposed to be an easy re-election for Allen. One of his top campaign officials tells CNN this race is competitive now. At their behest, other teammates have stepped forward to vigorously deny Allen was ever racist.
JONES: Absolutely not. In all the time that I've known Senator Allen, I've never heard him use a disparaging word. I've never witnessed him act in a racially insensitive manner to anyone.
FRANKEN: Allen himself denies the charge.
ALLEN: And it is completely false for them to say that that was part of my vocabulary, then or since then, or now.
FRANKEN: Allen has for years been criticized for the Confederate flag he once displayed in his office, but he also sponsored legislation that would officially apologize for slavery. As for his opponent, Democrat James Webb, his most notable comment has been no comment, until now.
WEBB: The thing that I can say absolutely is I have never issued an ethnic or racial slur at someone.
FRANKEN: It's George Allen who's accused of doing so, the latest in a string of controversies for a campaign whose slogan might well be "no news is good news" -- Wolf.