Sen. George Allen on Monday denounced as "ludicrously false" claims from a former college football teammate that he frequently used a racial slur to refer to black people.
Dr. Ken Shelton, now a radiologist in Hendersonville, N.C., also alleges that Allen, a former University of Virginia quarterback, once stuffed the severed head of a deer into a black household's oversized mail box.
In an Associated Press interview Monday, Allen vehemently denied the allegations Shelton made in an article published Sunday in the online magazine Salon.com and an AP interview Sunday night. His campaign released statements from four other ex-teammates defending Allen and rejecting Shelton's claims.
"The story and his comments and assertions in there are completely false," Allen said during an interview with AP reporters and editors. "I don't remember ever using that word and it is absolutely false that that was ever part of my vocabulary."
The Republican has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008, but questions about racial insensitivity have dogged him throughout his re-election bid against Democrat Jim Webb. Allen's use of the word "macaca" in referring to a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent in August prompted an outcry. The word denotes a genus of monkeys and, in some cultures, is considered an ethnic slur, but the senator insists he did not know that and had simply made the word up.
Shelton's claims came one week after a debate in which Allen bristled at questions about his Jewish ancestry. In an often bizarre week since, Allen admitted that he knew since late August that his grandfather, a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, was Jewish. On Monday Allen said both his maternal grandparents were Jews.
Shelton, a tight end and wide receiver for the Cavaliers in the early 1970s, said Allen used the N-word only around white teammates.
Shelton said the incident with the deer occurred during their college days when he, Allen and another teammate who has since died were hunting on a farm the third man's family owned near Bumpass, Va., 40 miles east of the university.
Shelton said Allen asked the other teammate where black families lived in the area, then stuffed a female deer's head into the mail box of one of the homes.
"George insisted on taking the severed head, and I was a little shocked by that," Shelton said.
"This was just after the movie "The Godfather" came out with the severed horse's head in the bed," Shelton told the AP.
Shelton described himself as an independent who has supported Democratic and Republican candidates and has no political reason to attack Allen. He said he regretted that he had not spoken against Allen in the early 1980s, when he was first entering politics, and began writing down his recollections as Allen's career "ascended to heights I never could have imagined."
He said he came forward to Salon.com because of Allen's mention as a 2008 presidential candidate and because of the Macaca incident.
"When I saw the look in his eye in that camera and using the word 'macaca,' it just brought back the bullying way I knew from George back then," Shelton said.
Other Allen teammates rushed to his defense, dismissing Shelton's claims.
Charlie Hale of Abingdon, a college roommate of Shelton's, said Shelton had told him in a weekend e-mail he "was going to break some story." Hale said in a telephone interview he had never heard those clams about Allen.
Hale said he and Allen often hunted together, and no one ever heard about the deer head incident. "There was not even a rumor on the team," said Hale, 52, an Allen campaign volunteer.
Doug Jones, who lived with Shelton, also dismissed the charges. "I never heard George Allen use any racially disparaging word nor did I ever witness or hear about him acting in a racially insensitive manner," Jones said.