From Joshua Levs
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RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- The bitter Senate campaign in Virginia turned uglier Friday when the Republican incumbent pulled up sexual passages from novels written by his Democratic opponent, who called the move baseless character assassination.
In a news release and list of quotes posted Friday on the Drudge Report Web site, Sen. George Allen accused his opponent, former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, of "demeaning women" and "dehumanizing women, men and even children" through his fiction writings. At least two of the listed passages include children in sexual situations.
Allen's campaign did not include the press release and list of passages on its Web site, where press releases are generally posted.
There was, however, a Thursday statement from Chris LaCivita, general consultant for the Allen campaign, saying some references in Webb's novels are "disturbing" and "portray women as servile, subordinate and promiscuous." (Watch as Allen stirs the pot and Webb responds -- 2:16)
Webb served in Vietnam and later led the Navy during the Reagan administration. He is running as a Democrat.
He has written six best-selling novels from 1978 to 2001, his Web site says. His writings have largely focused on war and military storylines, influenced by things he experienced.
The first quote describes a shirtless man picking up a naked boy who runs toward him. The book describes what happens after the man picks up the boy and turns him upside down. It comes from the 2001 book "Lost Soldiers."
Webb responded Friday morning on Washington Post radio. "Let me explain what that was," he said. "I actually saw this happen in a slum of Bangkok and when I was there as a journalist. A man placing his lips on his son's private parts. ... And the duty of a writer is to illuminate the surroundings.
"There is nothing that's been in any of my novels that, in my view, hasn't been either illuminating surroundings or defining a character or moving a plot," Webb said.
He added that he has "strong female characters" in his writings -- rejecting LaCivita's assertion that Webb's books portray women as "servile, subordinate and promiscuous."
The Allen campaign included several passages aimed at supporting that argument, including graphic sexual depictions and a quote from the 1981 book "A Sense of Honor," describing the character "Nurse Goodbody" as "a bedtime friend to many of the doctors in Bethesda" who had hinted "that she simply could not contain herself."
Webb told Washington Post radio that to pull excerpts from his writings "and force them on people, sort of, like pound them over the head with them," rather than having someone read the entire book "is just a classic example of the way this [Allen] campaign has worked. And you know, it's smear after smear."
"This is a Karl Rove campaign," Webb said, referring to President Bush's chief political strategist. "We have known this one was coming for quite some time."
Webb said advisers had warned him his opponent would pore over his novels to find incendiary passages. Webb accused Allen of not having "a record to run on" and attempting "character assassination."
The Allen campaign's attack came days after a Washington Post article headlined "Women's Vote Could Tip Close Contest." A Washington Post poll earlier this month found the two candidates virtually tied among female voters.
On Thursday, Webb's campaign posted a news release looking at parts of Allen's voting record with the headline, "George Allen Votes Against Victims of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence." Allen has denied such complaints.
Allen's re-election bid has been dogged by complaints of racial insensitivity. Polls in mid-August showed him with a solid lead until he was caught on videotape referring to Webb campaign volunteer S.R. Sidarth, who is of Indian descent, as "Macaca." The term refers to a class of monkey.
Allen apologized repeatedly and said the term was something he made up. Later, two former associates told CNN that Allen used a racial epithet to describe African-Americans -- allegations Allen and other former associates denied vigorously.
Sexual scenarios in fiction novels by prominent political and governmental figures have been controversial in the past. Webb, on Washington Post radio Friday, referred to one.
"I mean we can go and read Lynne Cheney's lesbian love scenes if you want to, you know, get graphic on stuff," he said.
Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, wrote the novel "Sisters," published in 1981, which included lesbian love scenes.
Lynne Cheney responded Friday: "Jim Webb is full of baloney. I have never written anything sexually explicit." (Watch Lynne Cheney defend her novel, criticize Webb -- 10:18)
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent out a news release Friday pointing to sexual passages in books by other GOP conservatives, including Dick Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
GOP Sen. George Allen's campaign claims that opponent Jim Webb's novels dehumanize women and children.