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.
(CNN) - Arizona Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he's not calling for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to resign his post in the wake of the Nevada Democrat's controversial comments about then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama, but said there is a "stunning double standard" between how Democrats are treating Reid versus then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott seven years ago.
"That's up to the voters of Nevada. I didn't know those kind of words were still in American lexicon," McCain said on NBC's The Today Show when asked if Reid should step aside.
"But I must comment on the stunning double standard as far as the treatment of Sen. Lott who also made unfortunate and inopportune remarks and the treatment of Harry Reid by the liberal left."
Asked directly if he thought Reid might have racial insensitivity or worse, Mcain said, "No, he is not."
The controversy is centered on remarks published in the book "Game Change," by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann that cites Reid as saying privately in 2008 that Obama could succeed as a black presidential candidate partly because of his "light-skinned" appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Reid apologized to Obama after excerpts from the book were released and Obama said he considered the issue closed. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and two top Senate Republicans have called on Reid to step down from his leadership post.
In the interview with NBC, McCain also refused to discuss revelations in "Game Change" that then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was barely vetted before the Arizona Republican asked her to be on his presidential ticket.
"I'm proud of Sarah Palin, I'm proud of the campaign we waged, she energized our party, she will be a major factor in politics in the future...I'm not going to spend time looking back at what happened over a year ago, when we've got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state, and things to do," McCain said.
Washington (CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is slated to speak at a high-profile Republican conference with 2012 implications, organizers announced Monday.
The Southern Republican Leadership Conference announced Monday morning that Gingrich will address the event, which takes place April 8-11 in New Orleans. The conference is a major gathering of Republican candidates, donors and activists from 14 Southern states.
The SRLC announced last week that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, another possible contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, would speak at the event. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, also considered a potential White House hopeful, will also speak at SRLC, a source close to Pawlenty confirms to CNN. A senior adviser to Mitt Romney, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate who may make another run in 2012, tells CNN that the former Massachusetts governor will not attend the conference.
Political watchers will be paying close attention to the SRLC conference, and not just because several potential presidential candidates are expected to attend. The SRLC - "the most prominent Republican event outside of a Republican National Convention," the organization boasts - also conducts a presidential straw poll.
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