Claude Allen, nominated for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, seems to have a rather defective memory, or perhaps one should say a well-functioning forgettery. When he was helping Jesse Helms defeat Jim Hunt in the 1984 Senate campaign, he criticized Hunt for his connections “with the queers.” That was consistent with Helms’s successful use of anti-gay prejudice as a weapon against Hunt.
Allen conceded then to several North Carolina newspapers that “queers” was a slang term for gay people, called the remark “an indiscretion” and stood by his criticism of homosexuals’ support of Hunt.
Time passes, things change, especially the memories of the ambitious. Allen gave a quite different account to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
“I used the word ‘queer’, in my mind, I think at the time — in the dictionary, it was described as ‘odd, out of the ordinary, unusual,’ ” Allen said According to the Raleigh News & Obsever,during his confirmation hearing. “I did not use the word as a pejorative. I did not use the word to denigrate any individual or any group.”
In written testimony to the Judiciary Committee this week, Allen said, “I had no specific individuals or groups in mind” when making the remark.
R-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ight. “Queer” just means “unusual,” referring to no one in particular. And of course it’s not a pejorative. (Which raises the question of why Allen’s association with such folks should have been a campaign issue.)
No doubt we will hear that Democratic opposition to Allen is an instance of racial prejudice, from the very same people who were so eager to impeach Bill Clinton for lying under oath.