An October 23 Washington Post article on the efforts of Sen. George F. Allen (R-VA) and former Navy Secretary James Webb, Allen's Democratic opponent in the upcoming election, to appeal to women voters reported that "[b]oth candidates say their positions" on women serving in the military "have evolved." In reporting this, however, the Post ignored statements Allen made as recently as 2000, indicating his opposition to allowing women to serve in combat roles in the military, statements that Media Matters for America found no evidence of his having repudiated.
Post staff writer Lisa Rein reported:
Allen put his Democratic challenger on the defensive early in the campaign over a magazine article Webb penned 27 years ago that questioned a woman's place at the U.S. Naval Academy and on the battlefield. Webb, who led a Marine rifle platoon in Vietnam, has tried to convince Virginia women that his controversial words reflected a turbulent era, not personal hostility.
Webb has hesitated to address Allen's record on women. But in Allen's 23 years in politics, some votes and policies have dogged him. As governor in the 1990s, Allen said he would accept an invitation to a males-only country club but changed his mind amid criticism. He also opposed coeducation at the Virginia Military Institute. In Congress, he opposed federal legislation giving women unpaid leave after the birth of a child.
Rein referred to an article Webb wrote titled "Women Can't Fight," which appeared in the November 1979 edition of Washingtonian magazine. In the article, Webb asserted, "There is a place for women in the military, but not in combat," and declared, "I have never met a woman ... whom I would trust to provide ... men with combat leadership." Regarding Allen's opposition to allowing women into the Virginia Military Institute, Allen told The American Enterprise in 1995 that "if VMI admitted women, it wouldn't be the VMI that we've known for 154 years. You just don't treat women the way you treat fellow cadets. If you did, it would be ungentlemanly, it'd be improper."
Rein went on to note:
Both candidates say their positions have evolved. Webb says that he opened up doors to women as President Ronald Reagan's Navy secretary in the 1980s and that his policies in that era have had a lasting -- and positive -- effect on women's role in the military. Allen argues that when the courts ordered that women be admitted to VMI, he ensured that women were welcomed at the state institution. He also says his policies on crime, education and other issues appeal to women and families.
But in suggesting that, in contrast to Webb, Allen has put the issue of his views on women in the military to rest by accepting the Supreme Court's VMI decision, Rein simply ignored comments Allen made about women in combat in 2000. As Media Matters noted, a candidate guide published by The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Virginia, on November 3, 2000, reported that "Allen is insistent that women should not be involved in direct combat." According to an October 9, 2000, Washington Post article, Allen said women "should not be in foxholes," adding that the "purpose of the armed services is not to be a social experiment."