January 4th, 2009
04:15 PM ET
13 years ago

Reid denies trying to nix Black choices to replace Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/04/art.reidpt0104.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Harry Reid responded Sunday to a recent newspaper report about his conversation with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D Nevada, took great exception Sunday to suggestions that he does not want another African-American to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

Related: Reid on his plan to deal with Burris

Confronted with a recent report from the Chicago Sun Times that he spoke with Illinois Gov. Blagojevich and suggested that Blagojevich pass over three African-American men and instead consider naming one of two Caucasian women, Reid essentially called the embattled governor a liar.

“This is part of Blagojevich’s cloud,” Reid said in an interview Sunday. “He’s making all this up,” Reid added. “I didn’t tell him who not to appoint.”

The Democrats’ leader in the Senate said he had one phone conversation with Blagojevich about possible replacements for Obama and likened that conversation to his conversations with New York Gov. David Paterson about replacing Sen. Hillary Clinton and with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter about replacing Sen. Ken Salazar.

“’Make sure you give us someone who can hit the ground running,’” Reid says he told Blagojevich in that conversation.

While the Nevada Democrat acknowledged that “of course we’re concerned about what happens in 2010,” he denied that concerns about the ability of the African-American contenders to win a statewide election in two years had anything to do with plans by Senate Democrats not to seat Roland Burris. Burris, like the three men referenced in the Sun Times report, is African-American.

“This has nothing to do with 2010 and has everything to do with a corrupt governor,” Reid said Sunday.

Reid specifically mentioned Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. who was among the three African-American men mentioned in The Sun Times report. Congressman Jackson “is someone that I think would make a good senator,” said Reid. “For Blagojevich to be throwing out these names of people I wanted and didn’t want, he’s making it up.”

Reminded that his phone conversation with Blagojevich was likely recorded because of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s ongoing criminal investigation of the Illinois governor’s conduct, Reid said simply “That’s right and that’s why, what’s he’s saying, he’s making it up.”

Reid also detailed his record of support for African-American political candidates like Ron Kirk of Texas and Harold Ford of Tennessee, who were both unsuccessful in bids for the Senate.

While Reid repeatedly denied that race entered into his discussion with Blagojevich, he also said he “did not remember what was [specifically] in the conversation other than the generalities I just talked about.”

In addition to Jackson, the Sun Times reported that Blagojevich was considering Illinois Rep. Dan Davis and state Sen. Emil Jones, a longtime political mentor of President-elect Obama, at the time Reid spoke with the governor. Instead of any of these three African-American politicians, the Sun Times said Reid suggested Blagojevich name Tammy Duckworth, the current head of Veterans Affairs in Illinois who lost both legs while serving in the military in Iraq, or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Duckworth and Madigan are both white.

Until he resigned after being elected president, Obama was the only African-American serving in the Senate.

Some political observers have suggested that racial considerations played a role in Blagojevich’s decision to name Burris. In addition to the federal corruption investigation, Blagojevich faces the possibility of being impeached and ultimately removed from office by the Illinois Legislature for an alleged plan to trade an appointment to Obama’s open seat for political favors.

Led by Illinois Rep.Bobby Rush, some elected African-American politicians and community leaders in Illinois have rallied around Burris, notwithstanding Blagojevich’s problems, and openly suggested that another African-American should occupy Obama’s seat.

Reid responded to the Sun Times report on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with host David Gregory.

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Cal Adkins

    So here we have it: Reid had made his own selections to replace Obama's seat in IL, and Blago has not gone along with him and selected Burris instead. So
    Reid is mad, poor little thing, and pouting because he didn't get his way in IL, so he won't seat Burris who is legally appointed. The democrats are corrupt, all the way.

    January 4, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  2. Cal Adkins

    Harry "the war is lost" Reid?

    January 4, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  3. Jeff

    Tammy Duckworth is an Asian American. She stated at the Democratic National Convention. I am here today, an Asian American, a Daughter of the American Revolution as well as a daughter of an immigrant.

    January 4, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  4. Texas Teacher

    I'm a minority... it is not about color or gender.... it is about integrity!

    January 4, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  5. Jeff

    Tammy Duckworth is an Asian American. She stated at the Democratic National Convention, "I am here today, an Asian American, a Daughter of the American Revolution as well as a daughter of an immigrant."

    January 4, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  6. libs be dopes

    I wonder when the tapes of the conversations will come out.........could be interesting.

    Innocent until proven guilty........unless you are an elected represenative....then you are just innocent.

    January 4, 2009 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  7. Meka

    And this is the Congress, that President -elect Obama will be forced with ! ! !

    January 4, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  8. Meka


    January 4, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  9. Sherrol in Canada

    How can Reid not rememeber what exactly he said to Blogo in connection with who he desired to fill Obama's seat? Guess he's forgotten that there are tapes.

    The plot thickens and the smell is rancid!!

    January 4, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  10. Proud American

    Mac = This story was created in the mind of a sick, republican.

    January 4, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  11. Carl Justus

    Reid should shut his mouth and bring Burris into senate with open arms. All he is going to accomplish is some hard feelings and in the end Burris will be seated by the Supreme if that becomes necessary and he stays the course.

    January 4, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  12. jon

    I'm a DEM but Reid is as bad s it gets for back room deals. Obama needs to watch his back with this guy.

    January 4, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  13. Scott

    Reid have better worry about holding his own seat in the next Nevada election. This man has done nothing but to try and undermine this nation.

    January 4, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  14. Charles from Atlanta

    The more you read, the whole thing becomes clear. Blagojevitch is trying to send Burris to the Senate seat and made a story like this. If you watched the conference, do you believe that Burris is completely innocent? You can bet Blagojevitch and Burris probably have been discussed all possible scenarios before made that announcement. And Burris is probably the highest bidder for that seat. So the contract has to be fulfilled.

    January 4, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  15. Sherrol in Canada

    How can Reid not rememeber what exactly he said to Blago in connection with who he desired to fill Obama's seat? Guess he's forgotten that there are tapes.

    The plot thickens and the smell is rancid!!

    January 4, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  16. PA Dem

    Blago will say anything to get the heat off his butt. I'm not saying Reid never said it....we don't know the whole story yet. But I don't believe anything out Blago's mouth. He's going down and he's trying to take everyone with him.

    January 4, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. Gerda Edwards

    Reid (with the help of Pelosi, Rangel, Frank, Blago, Obama, Biden, Franken, ...) is why the Democrats will self-destruct just like the Republicans have lately. Bush was one man and will soon be gone. The Dems have an All-Star line-up and have the monopoly.

    Maybe they'll surprise people and succeed, but that's just "hope" with no basis in past actions. Jefferson and Spitzer are already "out."

    January 4, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  18. Godluvr

    To whom it may concern:

    You are giving Pelosi and Reid a little to much power. As one who supported then Senator Obama and watched him run his campaign, I can tell you that he is no pushover. If anything, he will show them what real steel is made of. Keep watching, you're going to be amazed.
    To Mike, Syracuse NY and fellow dissidents:

    I am convinced that you all get your jollies from being over-the-top in your comments. I guess you have to find it wherever you can. Enjoy.

    January 4, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
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