Pushback: NRO questions Sabato's racism charges against Allen

I said yesterday it sounded like Sabato had heard Allen use the N-word himself. This quote suggests otherwise:

“My sources are former classmates who came to me with stories that matched up,” Sabato said late Monday night. “I never solicited them. They came to me during the past few months.”

How does that square with what Sabato told Chris Matthews last night on Hardball, wonders Greg Pollowitz.

MATTHEWS: Well how did he have that reputation as a student, define that if you can?

SABATO: Well as you know and anybody who has followed politics recently knows, he had a long love affair with the confederate flag and other symbols of the confederacy, which frankly was a bit odd for somebody who grew up in an upper middle class family with every possible privilege in southern California. It was an unusual love affair.

MATTHEWS: Did you know about this at the time, in real time?

SABATO: Oh yes, yes, I did.

Pollowitz also reminds us that Sabato moderated a debate between Allen and Chuck Robb in 2000 in which he brought up some of the more “impolitic” things Allen had said over the years — and curiously, the N-word was not among them.

I don’t think all this is as inconsistent as Pollowitz does. The excerpt he pulled from the Hardball transcript is misleading, in fact; the “reputation” Matthews refers to is not Allen’s reputation for being a racist, it’s for being a “redneck.” Here’s the exchange:

[SABATO:] He’s running in a state that‘s more purple than red. He’s stuck with this rural redneck image that he‘s had for years, really ever since he was a student, if you want to know the truth.

MATTHEWS: Well how did he have that reputation as a student, define that if you can?

Sabato then goes on to say he knew at the time that Allen had a “love affair” with confederate symbols — not that he knew at the time that Allen used the N-word. That’s consistent with what Sabato says about having only learned of the racial slurs in the last few months. And it also might explain why he didn’t bring this up in 2000. As several southern bloggers have reminded me in the past few days, a fondness for the rebel flag does not necessarily indicate a fondness for all it stood for. Sabato might have figured, reasonably, that George Allen riding around with it on his car as a college student wasn’t exactly a scandal in Virginia worthy of mention at a political debate. George Allen using the N-word would be.

But we’ll see, I guess. Sabato’s got a lot to lose here.

Hey, speaking of racists — what’s the deal with Keith Olbermann calling Chris Wallace a “monkey”? One of Karol’s Jewish readers is none too happy about it. Neither is Johnny Dollar, who e-mailed me last night to see what I thought. I told him the fact that Krazy Keith has Howard Fineman on his show regularly is probably sufficient cover, but Johnny parried that notwithstanding HF’s appearances, KO’s Bill O’Reilly/Nazi salute a few months back does give cause for concern. Which is true. I defended the Olberdouche by replying that I don’t think he’s a Nazi so much as he genuinely, truly, honestly believes that his opponents are Nazis, and therefore he’s entitled to speak “truth” to power by invoking all manner of hateful symbols and gestures to mock them. It goes back to the whole circle jerk over Colbert — the fightin’ nutroots sincerely believes they’re the Resistance, so when Olberdouche does ten minutes on how Bush = Hitler, they get the same thrill from it as though it were a communique from a government in exile via pirate radio. Look for Olby to construct fake gas chambers on the set of Countdown soon so that the next time he interviews someone about secret prisons, he can do it in an appropriately “mock” fashion. Who knows? Maybe he can convince Dana Milbank to play along by wearing an SS deathshead visor. Only if he asks nicely.

Go vote in the Olbermann Watch poll.

Update: John Gibson thinks Olby’s little “monkey” crack had a whiff of the ol’ Zyklon about it too.