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. Maggie SC

    I would not put anything past Reid. He would mess up a good love story. He does not know how to make a good decision. He appears to not be behind Obams and he is a democrat. He just wants to make waves and get attention of any kind. Obama has made some good choices and I do not see his color now should it matter to the democrats since they put him in. He is the better of the choices so far. He seems to have things in order. Let us all give him a chance.

    January 4, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  2. Proud American

    Are free thinking intelligent Americans suppose to believe this crap? Republicans surely you can come up with something better than this. What a bunch of Idiots.

    January 4, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. Penn Voter

    Oh Harry, don't be shy. The world knows the truth about the DNC leadership.

    January 4, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  4. John G

    Harry isn't racist. He's a megalomaniac.

    He doesn't care that Burris is black it's just that Blagojevich appointed someone despite being told not to by King Harry. If Harry can't have his way then no one can have theirs either.

    January 4, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  5. BB

    It's not Burris, folks. It's the smell that came from Blagojevich. That man cannot continue to put the screws to ILL and the USA.

    January 4, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  6. steveo

    wow, blago the filthy-mouthed crook will even play to race card to try and save his destined-to-be-a-convicted-felon backside. what a loser!
    his should permanently and forever make him a persona-non-grata in anyones democratic party.

    January 4, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  7. TCM

    It doesn't matter what the color; if they're from Chicago and a demcrat, they're corrupt. Reid, Pelosi, OBama,....Blag...they're all crooks cut from the same slab of corruption; what's funny is you libs bought it....what's sad is you bought it and we all have to suffer from your ignorance.

    January 4, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  8. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Sure, Harry. We believe you. We really do. Of course we believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and that Obama is actually qualified too.

    January 4, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  9. nothing to do with the choice, instead who made the choice

    He could have choosen Mother Theresa, poison fruit from the tree and all that

    I can't believe Burris, if he is a man of integrity, accepted the nod from Blago

    Why would any Dem or Rep want anything from this Gov except his surrender to the authorities as he is reporting to jail

    January 4, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  10. mary

    it dosen't matter who is appointed to elect president obama senate seat,wheather they are white,black ,asian,hispanic or whomever as long as they arean honest ,fair and trustworthy person. i am african american,but a qulified person must have those qulaties also,some the american people can trust that they will do the right thing for their country and the people.

    January 4, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  11. dominick

    looks like Harry just stepped in quicksand-should be interesting to see how he handles it and if Pelosi steps in to help
    His answers on meet the press were less than forthright as to the surge in Iraq, the comment "the war is lost", and the treating of General Patreas - and no mention of the dems calling Patreas -betrayus–how convenient.

    January 4, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  12. dominick

    this week should give a good indication if Obamas' in charge or if The tag-team of Pelosi-Reed is running the show–shoild be interesting

    January 4, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  13. Rob

    Obama couldn't even get into the DNC convention in 2000 because the party leadership was to racist to let him in. Reid didn't support Obama because he saw him as a "black candidate" and he opposes the black candidates for the IL Senate seat for the same reason. He just doesn't think blacks can win statewide elections despite all proof to the contrary.

    January 4, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  14. dominick

    this week should give a good indication if Obamas' in charge or if The tag-team of Pelosi-Reed is running the show–should be interesting

    January 4, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  15. Dwayne

    What does anyone expect from Reid, He is an obvious Hypocrite. And certainly the worst Senate leader of all time.

    January 4, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  16. joseph

    I am an African American and I do not think that the doubt over whether Burris should be seated is the result of racial animus. A fundamental part of American life as exhibited in the Constitution is the concept that the government and its respective branches and members will deal fairly with the public, and will do so in a manner to avoid the appearance of impropriety. The tape recorded conversations of Blagojevitch in the worst case scenario have caset serious doubt on whether he has dealt fairly with his constitutients, and in the best case scenario have cast serious doubts at to whether the appointment is free from the appearance of corruption. This is important because as a U.S. Senator, Burris not only represents the States of Illinois, he also represents the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Therefore, it is incumbent upon our other representatives in the U.S. Senate to investigate and examine the validity of the appointment. I would be disappointed if they just took Blagojevtich's word for it that the appointment was free from corruption. Besides, the Illinois Secretary of State, who is also an African American, as of yesterday, refused to certify the appointment.

    January 4, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  17. gregg45

    wow, bill .. see, i told ya

    January 4, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  18. casper

    let us listen to the taped phone call, then we'll know, want we mr. reid.

    January 4, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  19. Texas Teacher

    Oh, hogwash... I don't care which party, when they are caught with their hand in the cooky jar, they will say or do anything to cover their as.... I mean behinds! I don't care WHICH party it is.. we have to rout out this corruption! Good ole boy, ole time politics must become a thing of the past! 🙁

    January 4, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  20. Lisa Vilen

    I agree with "nothing to do. . ." in principle. I am a staunch Democrat and an adamant anti-racist. As soon as Blagojevich made the appointment, I knew what game was being played. It is too bad that Burris had to play along. If he would have simply thanked his supporters, but refused the appointment based on the circumstances, I would imagine that somewhere along the way Burris would have eventually wound up getting the job anyway. Now, unfortunately, despite his high credentials, Burris comes across looking almost desperate.

    January 4, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  21. bob

    Im not surprised about Reid seeing that he shown more afftection for Lieberman after he tried his best to crucify Obama then he did before.

    January 4, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  22. Texas Teacher

    Color is NOT the issue.... tainted nominations are! Get rid of this bozo and then start the process over. If Burris can make the cut, well, then more power to him. But at least we will know that he got the job honestly! Qualifications mean more than color or gender!

    January 4, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  23. Mac

    Proud American – What does this have to do with the Repubs? This is a report of the senior Dem leader talking to a Dem governor. We need more cooperation between the parties instead of people like you spouting this garbage. We will get more things done together than at each other throats. Chill out for once.

    January 4, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  24. Brandon AL

    Hey TCM guess what? We sufferd 8 years from your ignorance. Blago is playing games don't look at me look at him tactics.

    January 4, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  25. Texas Teacher

    John G, have you NOT noticed that Everyone is saying the same thing about the TAINT of this nomination, not Burris' qualifications? Seriously, stop foaming at the mouth until you have listened to the news or read the papers... please!

    January 4, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
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