Senator George Allen has released a statement confirming his mother’s Jewish lineage, a day after refusing to answer a question on the topic during a debate.
“I was raised as a Christian and my mother was raised as a Christian. And I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line’s Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed,” Allen said in the statement.
The Forward published a story last month detailing Allen’s Jewish heritage. He did not return calls seeking comment for that article, and soon after insisted that his mother was “raised a Christian” and made no mention of any of her Jewish ancestors.
The issue gained national attention after a debate Monday, during which Allen fumed at a reporter who asked him about the subject.
After Allen mentioned that his father “was incarcerated by the Nazis in World War II,” one of the debate questioners, WUSA-TV’s Peggy Fox, asked whether it was true that his grandparents had been Jewish.
“To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don’t think is relevant,” Allen responded angrily. “Why is that relevant – my religion, Jim’s religion or the religious beliefs of anyone out there?” He then urged Fox to refrain from “making aspersions.”
In his statement today, Allen criticized Fox for what he described as her efforts to impugn “the attitudes of my mother.” He also said that “the notion peddled by the Webb campaign that I am somehow embarrassed by my heritage is equally offensive, and also absurd.”
Allen said that although for years he has publicly mentioned that his maternal grandfather was incarcerated by the Nazis, he never knew if his grandfather was persecuted beacaus of “his nationality, his religious faith, his role as a community leader, or his part in the anti-Nazi resistance.”
“Some may find it odd that I have not probed deeply into the details of my family history, but it’s a fact,” Allen said. “ We in the Allen household were simply taught that what matters is a person’s character, integrity, effort, and performance – not race, gender, ethnicity or religion. And so whenever we would ask my mother through the years about our family background on her side, the answer always was, ‘Who cares about that?’
He ended the note saying that his mother “deserves respect and she also deserves privacy, especially where painful memories are concerned. I sincerely hope that simple decency will be respected.”