January 12th, 2010
09:28 AM ET
5 years ago

Ensign: Lay off Reid

Sen. John Ensign, himself no stranger to controversy, is breaking with other Republicans to defend his fellow Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.
Sen. John Ensign, himself no stranger to controversy, is breaking with other Republicans to defend his fellow Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

Washington (CNN) – Sen. John Ensign, himself no stranger to controversy, is breaking with other Republicans to defend his fellow Nevada Sen. Harry Reid for describing President Obama as "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

"I think we need to get away from this politics of gotcha," Ensign told KKOH radio in Reno on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

"I don't think there's a person walking, certainly not a politician out there, that hasn't made comments they regret," he said in the interview. "When you make those comments, as long as you take responsibility for your comments and apologize for them, I think people should accept that."

Ensign suggested that Republicans are being hypocritical for calling on Reid to resign his post as Senate Majority Leader.

"Democrats were really wrong in what they did to Trent Lott, and we shouldn't do the same thing to Sen. Reid," Ensign said.

Lott lost his post as Senate majority leader in 2002 after saying that the nation would have been better off if one-time segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond had been elected president.


Filed under: John Ensign
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. gary davis Harbor Oregon proud american

    the saying goes " HE WHO GETS SNIPED KNOWS BEST ON HOW IT FEELS ." HE IS CORRECT TO A POINT BUT TRENT LOTT STEPPED WAY OVER AND IT HAD NOTHING TO DO FOR BEING A REPUBLICAN . it was about racisum. and Mr Reid was correct in everything he said . and he didn't say in the tone of a smart ass . he just stateded the facts as we all know . so maybe instead of cutting his tthroat we should imbrace the issue and help make it go away .. :) time has changed the way america views racists . we now have a Black president . whom won because he is qualified not because he is black whit or any other color ..
    my feelings are simple about race ..( I HAVE THE BLOOD OF HUMANITY FLOWING THROUGH MY VAINS ) its that simple :)

    January 12, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  2. Scott, Tucson

    Okay, okay...we all know White democrats are racists now lets move onto something else like, when does obama plan on holding his State of the Union Address and why has he not held a press conference since mid-July?

    January 12, 2010 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. Mike Dallas

    Ensign descends from "Mount Holier Than Thou" to dwell among us mere mortals.

    Who knew?

    January 12, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. max in maryland

    I like this guy. "Politics of 'gotcha'."

    I like that term.

    January 12, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. GI Joe

    Ensign is an immoral slimebag. He's he one that needs to go. He's not a good family values example for our children.

    Still takes money from mommy and daddy to pay his mistress and used taxpayer's dollars to pay her whole family a "salary" HA

    January 12, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  6. Tony in Maine

    What Ensign neglects to mention is that GW Bush and Dick Cheney wanted Lott gone. The Democrats and a majority of the Republican caucus joined together to send Lott back to the plantation.

    In Reid's case, Republicans see an opportunity to derail or delay health care reform and earn the perks they get from the real electorate, their friends on K St. Most think the word "negro" is fine and, like a WSJ writer today, are confused over why everyone is excited.

    January 12, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Change In America

    I agree Ensign ....I dont think Reid did any harm to any African American. The republican is the one racist.

    So leave Reid along he help alot of African American by passing bill to help us.

    January 12, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  8. JR

    sometimes it is refreshing to see a Republican that is level headed and actually shows some compassion...thank you John.

    January 12, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  9. Glenn, Cary, NC

    How long are we going to perpetuate the myth that Democrats hounded Trent Lott from his leadership position. It was the Bust-Cheney-Rove white house that pushed Lott out. They wanted someone more compliant to their wishes and they got him – Bill Frist. Democrats didn't have the power to get rid of Lott – they were the MINORITY party.

    January 12, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. indyreader

    Dumb thing for Reid to say? Certainly. And he apologized. Worth resigning his post over? You gotta be kidding me.

    January 12, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  11. LacrosseMom(stuck in moderation)

    Republicans always love being 'holier-than-thou' pointing out every flaw, error, gaffe by the other party. Here is Ensign a man who is an adulterer, and he is standing up for Sen. Reid. Its a relief that there are some GOPers who have a sense of fairness, who know that no one is perfect.

    What dismays me day in and day out, is that the GOP do not discuss topics on these or any blog, they preach, they put down.

    Let's raise the bar, folks, let's discuss, let's agree to disagree with some measure of civility.

    January 12, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. No need to hammer Reid.....

    the good people of Nevada will take care of that in November...check the polls: Reid is toast.....

    January 12, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. Joanna in PA

    Lott and Reid are like apples and Oranges. Lott was implying that we would have a better world if only we voted for the segregationist Strom Thurman. Reid was thinking about viability for a candidate. There is a dialect that is commonly associate with Black people. Although this dialect is NOT exclusive to that race or any race, it does exists. Some people have a prejudice about that unfortunately. That is what we should be discussing. the hard topics that need to spoken about. Until we speak of these things, this will happen over and over.
    It is one thing to say something insult or stereo type a certain race or gender, but it is another to acknowledge race and how that may or may not affect an out come. We are missing a greater opportunity to talk about the different types of racism and prejudice. There is flat out bold racism, suitable racism and unconscious prejudice that is almost genetically passed down to us over the years. These folks are not racist, but rather have not given thought to how certain statements make no sense and may offend others. That is a fine line and until things like Reid happen, they will not be addressed.

    January 12, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. Bob in Pa

    Good for Senator Ensign. But unfortunately taking the higher road just doesn't cut it in D.C. politics. Ask John McCain. If his campaign had brought more of Obama's background to the forefront, the Sheeple of the United States might have learned what Obama was all about then, instead of waking up a year later.

    January 12, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  15. Terry from West Texas

    Ensign is right for the first time in his life. He of course was burned because of his own personal scandals. Reid was evaluating Obama's electability from the perspective of race. Race is very important to Americans. That is why newscasters, actors and actresses, politicians, actors in commercials, corporate spokespeople, etc. are all evaluated for race, ethnicity, gender, accent, and other race-associated characteristics.

    In my home town of El Paso, which is mostly Hispanic, female candidates who are Hispanic but who married an Anglo (that's what we call them here) make sure to hyphenate their names (like Linda Garcia-Johnson) so that Hispanic voters are aware of their ethnicity.

    Reid did use the word "Negro" which has no negative connotation in my mind, though many people think it does (so I avoid using it). There is nothing pejoritive about the United Negro College Fund or even the National Association for the Advancemenet of Colored People (I do not use "colored" eitther.)

    Grow up.

    January 12, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  16. Mike in Mississippi

    Ensign is an idiot. It was the REPUBLICIANS who went after Trent Lott. The Republicians at that time held a majority in the Senate and in the White House. What a tool!

    January 12, 2010 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  17. Obama mama

    A lot has been made of the Reid comment. I agree with Ensign, it isn't a huge deal. The problem that republicans have about the situation is that there is a double standard in politics. No matter what the intent, democrats and black organizations vilify any republican or conservative that they perceive to make a racial gaffe.

    January 12, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  18. Dieter Zerressen

    I can appreciate Sen Ensign's kind words but I doubt if he would be so concillatory if he weren't under a cloud himself right now. That said, to compare Reid's private remarks to Lott's public statement about how the country would have been better off under segregation is really a stretch. And to hear Michael Steele complain just after he said, "honest injun" on TV, is really hypocritical and disgusting.

    January 12, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. Liz

    Comparing Trent Lott's comments to those of Harry Reid is like comparing apples to giraffes. One was a wish to return to the bad old days of segregation and the other was a clumsily worded statement of fact that was meant to be supportive of electing a black man. Unfortunately, Sen. Reid's assessment of Obama's qualities making him electable are, if politically incorrect, true. How many Americans are ready to elect as president someone who looks and sounds like your average NFL middle linebacker? It is simply fact that people are judged by their speech, and a lot of intelligent people are discounted because their speech belies their capabilities. It isn't fair, it just is. And people and communities do themselves a disservice in denying it.

    January 12, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  20. RTB

    Trent Lott's statement was and still is a divisive one, an insult to any fare minded citizen.

    Harry Reid's comments were bungling but not racist.

    Those Republicans who would call for Reid's head if he were to have had an episode of flatulence.

    January 12, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. Laremy, LA

    As an African American, I think black people do themselves and the president a disservice by talking about race. There will be plenty of time to deal with the issue, but on our terms. The GOPers would love to distract the president and Harry Reid with talking about race at nauseum. That's their plan to bring down the president. Just stop and think a moment, when is the last time you heard the GOPers talking about racism.

    When race is not in their favor, they blame the Dems for playing the race card, if the discussion distracts the president, they say they are offended and Harry Reid should step down. Don't play their game.

    Side Note: Black talking heads should stay off of the televison talking about race. It makes no sense and plays into the GOPers hands because the more the media talks about the race, the less they will discuss healthcare. So black people, stop being so gullible. Go on there and talk about healthcare, anything other than race. First of all I think it's insincere and racist. Racism is not just a black problem, but everyone's problem. Harry should not just apologize to the president, but to everyone–white, black, and hispanic.

    January 12, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. TCM

    Hey Ensign.....Reid should've resigned BEFORE the comments were leaked out; just for being a socialistic idiot like Obama and Pelosi....all three of these stooges need to go home and sit in the corner

    January 12, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  23. Keeth in California

    This situation with Reid is entirely different from that of Trent Lott. Republicans are being glib when they try to compare the two situations as equal. Ensign is half-helping, half-maintaining an untrue comparison. Reid spoke of a social truth among Americans that we would not elect today a dark-skinned African American who speaks an urban African American English dialect. By contrast, Lott praised Strom Thurmond's segregationist platform when he ran for president in 1948. These are two entirely different things.

    January 12, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  24. walleye

    Ensign is right on target. Its time to be quite and get on with bigger issues in Govt. As was spoken 2000 years ago, " let him without sin cast the first stone."

    January 12, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  25. Casey

    I don't understand how people can think what Reid said is even close to what Lott said. Reid made racially insensitive, yet true, remarks. It's not his fault that race is still a factor in our political process, but to suggest that that's on par with suggesting that it would have been better if the US had never been desegragated, that's rediculous.

    January 12, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
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