Washington (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized Saturday following reports he had privately described then-candidate Barack Obama during the presidential campaign as a black candidate who could be successful thanks in part to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann reported the remarks in their new book “Game Change,” which was purchased by CNN Saturday at a Washington-area bookstore. The book is slated for official release next Tuesday.
“He (Reid) was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama - a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination," they write.
“I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” Reid said in a statement to CNN.
(Update 4:00 pm: In a statement released by the White House, the president accepted Reid's apology: "Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.")
In his Saturday statement, Reid said he apologized “for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.
“I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda.”
Reid also pointed to his efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry, among other legislation favored by African-American voters: “I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African American community.”
The Nevada Democrat – who waited to formally endorsed Obama until after the conclusion of the tough presidential primary battle in 2008 - is facing an uphill re-election fight this year in his home state.
–CNN Political Producer Rebecca Sinderbrand contributed to this report
Update: Republicans called on Democratic lawmakers and candidates Saturday to condemn Reid's original remarks. “For those who hope to one day live in a color-blind nation it appears Harry Reid is more than a few steps behind them," National Republican Senatorial Committee communication director Brian Walsh said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long history of embarrassing and controversial remarks by the senior Senator from Nevada. He always shares exactly what’s on his mind with little regard to perception or consequences, and it’s one of the reasons he is the most vulnerable incumbent Senator in either party facing re-election.
“Nevada deserves better from its leaders and this November, voters in the Silver State will have an opportunity to elect a new Senator who will put their views and values first and foremost. In the meantime, we hope Reid’s fellow Democrats in the Senate and on the campaign trail will stand up and rightly condemn these racially insensitive remarks by their elected leader.”