January 9th, 2010
04:45 PM ET
4 years ago

Reid apologizes for 'Negro dialect' comment

Reid apologized Saturday for remarks he made about then-candidate Barack Obama.
Reid apologized Saturday for remarks he made about then-candidate Barack Obama.

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.”


Filed under: Harry Reid • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (304 Responses)
  1. WMiller

    Love how the libs want to spin this into nothing. If a Republican had said this they would have been out for blood. Thankfully the libs can squakw all they want; it doesn't diminsh the fact that Reid is toast and this just the extra pat of butter.

    January 9, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. Dave, NE

    Perhaps Harry wants sympathy from voters in Nevada as he is unelectable. He needs help from Barack Obama. Democrats have no class. They will mdo anything to get into senate and white house. Barack is not an exception. He has tricked the whole country and now he occupies the White House. Gradually everything will open up. Come November, all will be out of office and Barack's turn will come in 2012. We will dump him.

    January 9, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. Patrick

    This is just awful and unacceptable. Obama deserves better support from a party member than playing to physical traits that make someone electable. I always gave Reid the benefit of the doubt, but I guess he really is a bad guy. This type of comment takes away from Obama and fuels the Republican's belief that Obama was only elected sensationally and to make history. Most importantly, it makes Obama look like a sock pupper for Reid to push whatever issues he wants by manipulating the skills Obama brings to the table. Just awful. Hopefully another Democratic candidate sends Reid packing.

    January 9, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Can't understand

    REALLY???!!! My child has to pay out of state tuition and I am a taxpayer...and we're paying for their healthcare too. What is happening here???

    January 9, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Rudy

    Another example to break the myth that liberals can't make race-related comments, sometimes very racist ones.

    January 9, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  6. Thios

    We could all stand to learn a lesson here about the degrees of “winning.” A good rule I’ve learned in my life is: “Never leave a person without options”. Another is: “One who intends to die can do anything.” So when you “win” it’s a good idea to extend an olive branch of compromise afterward – even when you don’t have to. This ensures your victory never leaves an opponent without options as is the case in this story involving Harry Reid.

    January 9, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  7. Richard Johnson

    I am disappointed in Harry Reid. He needs to step down. Apologizing does not change anything. Reid will still make a profit from his racist views as it was written.

    January 9, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  8. poulose

    Truth always hurts

    January 9, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  9. msterry2004

    @Ryan (Charleston) "This is absolutely hilarious!!! Where are all the liberals at on this one. " By the way, I'm a liberal.

    January 9, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  10. Ex-NC-Pub

    CNN, we expected the usual pious outcry from those who called Obama "the other one.. an alien... not one of us... not born in US.. Hitler.. socialist.. Marzist...communist...soft on terror... taking away our liberties...destroying our values... drew him as a monkey, etc.", but do you also have to make an issue of everything? Where is your outrage over Rudy, Matalin, Peter King and others denying terror happened on Bushs' watch?

    CNN... become responsible,not tabloid like.

    January 9, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Double Standard

    This is nothing but crap.

    All of you left wingers are going to say, ohhh, its ok. He did not mean it. It was a private comment, Obama forgave him.

    But you all know full darn well, if a prominant republican had said the say thing, there would be a cry for blood and a beheading.
    God forbid, Sarah Palin, Hannity, Beck or Rush uttered those words. The media would explode covering the slander.

    Double Standard all the way. When a republican told the president, you lie, there was instant outrage from the Dems. But yet when one of thier own is exposed, they all huddle up and say, it is ok, no big deal.

    Again, it is crap.

    January 9, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  12. Buddy

    Wow, most of you posters are pretty well spoken considering you're white Americans. There's barely any kind of patronizing southern accent anywhere in your statements. Good for you!

    January 9, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Charmaine

    Ok,ok.This is getting big. Paul`s comment.You are wrong.I am out of her after this.It was wrong what he said.I do not care how old he is.He knew what he said and took time to think of it to say.What is the point anyway?If he said it in private he should left it like that.And to use the word,negro just made it in very bad taste.Now whatever he was refering to.There is no such thing as a so call,"negro dialect".That is silly.Now,there are some black people and even white people that may grow up and live in neighborhoods that have very low education.Rural areas tooof the US.the whole family may not know any better.The grand parents to their children and they have children and seem to never get out of the low education and having a good paying job.There families and the whole community my speak very poor english as far a english with slang and not good grammer in how to say things.How to express themselves.If none of the people change this is what happens.The language is just bad english.the way people speak in communites as such.I hear and I am black and do not like it.It sounds like people that not educated.It makes them ignorant and lazy.They do not want to learn more to be more intelligent have a better education be able to go to college and get a good job.When you do that some people demeanor is different in how they represent theirselves to others.It all depends on how you are reared in the home by your parent or parents.And the surrounds you live in and people you are freinds with in your life time.

    January 9, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. John, Brooklyn, NY

    Specific to Paul....

    Please note that no prominant African Americans have "cried foul". Instead, its cynical Republicans who are jumping on the issue to exploit the gaffe for THEIR political gain...as if blacks are really going to flock to THEM! Hah!

    January 9, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. jeff jackson, alabama

    This is in response to the Republican bashing
    concerning this story.
    The first black Secretary of State, the first black
    head National Security Advisor, the second black
    Secretary of State, the first black Justice of the
    U.S. Supreme Court were all during Republican
    administrations. One party has always exploited
    blacks in America for their own gain and the Republican
    Party has been the most COLOR BLIND .

    January 9, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Ramesh Shrestha

    Everybody is racist. Just that some unfortunately get exposed while others continue to maintain their racist attitudes behind veils. It is time to get past this trifle and focus on big issues.

    January 9, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  17. Johnny DC

    This story is about two men who will be irrelevant soon enough.

    January 9, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. jon

    I tried posting a rational comment this morning when the story first broke but of course that didn't get posted. Instead CNN posted the same type of irrational comments from those with an agenda that they always do.
    I guess it's working since I came back to the story and increased the visit counter, which pushed the story further up on the front page. We are all being played to generate traffic, so that they can increase their Ad revenue.

    This is a non-issue. I've often be told that I don't sound "Black", which to me meant the person didn't think I had an accent they typically associate when Black people.

    But blind folded how many people could tell a Black and a White Alabamian apart?

    January 9, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  19. Joel Miller

    I think its perfectly appropriate to discuss how race and other personal characteristics might effect a particular presidential candidates chances during an election. Harry Reid's support of the President in the primaries and in forwarding his legislative agenda and his anti-racist record prove he is not a racist. The only thing he may have done that is "wrong" is use the antiquated word negro, but unlike Rush Limbaugh who champions the racist song, Barack The Magic Negro on the airways he is definitely not a racist.

    January 9, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  20. thomas

    That's a stupid comment paul made. It appears that "minorities" aren't the ones crying at all. Point them out please.

    January 9, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. Bassman

    Unbelieveable! Yesterday the big "revelation" from CBS about this book was not this story, but governor Palin calling Joe Biden, O'Biden. Even though she wrote about it in her book. We all know CBS is out to get Palin because of the what she wrote about Katie Couric. Maybe CNN should not lend out Anderson Cooper to CBS.

    January 9, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  22. JBS

    31m-PA – don’t be holier than though.
    Unbelievable. I love how my Democratic friends tell me that Republicans are racist and they would be VERY correct look at history of laws. GOP is saying anything only to gain Political points. Only that! Look what GOP is saying about a very capable Mr. Steele now. GOP put him there because he also was the right shade

    January 9, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  23. Fernando F.

    why is he apologizing for his choice of words? those are the words that he use in private. Is he going to stop talking? At his age is too late to start learning a new vocabulary.

    January 9, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. HAWK TEXAS

    Ah the barbarity of it all, there was nothing that reid said that was offencive. it is all how different people take it. the question could be, is Obama half black, or is Obama half white. i had a great aunt that burnt the only picture of my great grandfather because she did not want people to know she was part native american. personally i am proud of my cherokee blood.

    January 9, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  25. Bill

    Harry was apologizing for getting caught.

    January 9, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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