December 8th, 2009
12:37 PM ET
7 years ago

GOP head demands apology for slavery remark

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="RNC Chairman Michael Steele said Tuesday that disagreements with Democrats over health care reform have 'nothing to do with the historic roots of slavery.'"]
(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele Tuesday demanded that the Senate Democratic leader apologize for invoking slavery as he criticized Republicans for their opposition to passing health care reform.

"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans can come up with is this: Slow down, stop everything, let's start over," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Monday.

"If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right," Reid also said from the Senate floor. "When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said slow down, it's too early, let's wait, things aren't bad enough."

Steele, the RNC's first African-American chairman, took exception with Reid's remarks.
"It was not a sober moment for Harry Reid at all," Steele said Tuesday morning on CBS. "It was an ignorant moment.

"I'm kind of sick and tired of the left and Democrats in this country. When they get into trouble and don't get their way and their backs are up against the wall on legislation or whatever it is that they're trying to do, they go to that card. They play that race card, that slavery card, that civil rights card."

Steele added that disagreements with Democrats over health care reform have "nothing to do with the historic roots of slavery."

The RNC head said Reid "needs to go to the well of the Senate, take it back, and apologize for offending the sensibilities of the American people on something so important."

Filed under: Harry Reid • Health care • Popular Posts • RNC
soundoff (282 Responses)
  1. Galen

    Senator Reid should step down from his post as leader of the Senate. These remarks are far worse in tone & far worse in the damage done than those that Trent Lott made, which cost him his position. This senator no longer speaks for the American people nor his own constituents & should step down from his position of Majority Leader in the senate. It's obvious his only regard is for the concerns of the Democratic Party as an entity, not those for the country.

    December 8, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Can the GOP do anything 'Positive"?

    December 8, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. munchmom

    If a Republican had made such a comment about anyone, much less a democrat, the MSM would be all over it, and everyone would be outraged. We haven't heard a word from other "outraged" Dems or anyone else. What is wrong with this picture? I hope Harry Reid is soundly defeated in 2010!!

    December 8, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  4. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Reid is absolutely right..... The GOP is all about itself and has no concerns about this country. Party first.

    And that moron Steele can shut his gaping maw.

    December 8, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  5. Ed in Reno, NV

    Way to go Harry. Always call a spade a spade.

    December 8, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. masse

    Michael Steele is annoying and does not know what he is talking about

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  7. SocialismBad

    Wasn't it Abraham Lincoln, a REPUBLICAN President, that freed the slaves?!! Harry Reid doesn't know his history or much else for that matter. This ignorant buffoon is a huge embarassment to his state and this country.

    He should not only apologize for this outrageous statement, he should resign as leader and even from the Senate. This country needs competent people in the Senate. This dolt needs to find a job he's qualified for, like working the drive-thru at Mickey D's.

    He is truly pathetic.

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  8. Jim

    Reid is clearly ignorant and speaks without thinking.

    If nothing else, Reid should note that it was a Republican (Lincoln) who ended slavery. It was Democrats who opposed ending slavery, so any arguments that he saw on resisting the end of slavery were probably from the archives of his intellectual and party antecedants in the Senate and House - Democrats.

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Gale

    Excuse me, but wasn't Abraham Lincoln a Republican?

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  10. Objective Thinking

    Hey Harry, open a history book. It was the Republicans who freed the slaves, and the Democrats who tried to keep slavery.

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  11. W Spivey

    The Tin Foil of the Repug Party.

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. jle

    nooo Mr. Steele, we are getting sick of you!

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. SierraBW

    There is no reason for apology. Human rights and the right to health care are important and irrevocably inked, so that one cannot prevail without the other. Reid spoke of another moment in history where some people wanted to preserve the status quo - that was during slavery. The GOP wants to do that with health care. Reid's comment was an apt comparison. As scores of people died during slavery, so we understand that thousands have died for lack of preventive health care. Mr. Steele, come up with a better rejoinder than that Mr. Reid should apologize. Come with with a plan, or agree with an existing one. Otherwise, your carping solves nothing.

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  14. Terry B., Lexington, Ky

    Well if Mr. Steele can attest to anything substantial here that is "ignorance". Lord knows he is most of all the most "ignorant" person ever. Cry baby....

    December 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  15. V in Chicago

    I believe the point being made here is, Congress has a history of dragging their feet and putting off tough decisions. I see nothing wrong in what Sen. Reid said. If he made statements that were false, then he would need to apologize. But, if what he spoke was the truth – than let the chips fall where they lay.
    Congress – get the job done! We – the American People – are tired of your in-house bickering and finger pointing. Just do what you were sent to Washington to do and SERVE the People. If you can not do this, you may be very disappointed the next time you come up for re-election. We know you have your controlled focus groups that tell you what you want to hear, but the majority of the people of this country voted for change. So, give us change and stop this name calling and finger pinting nonsense. I'm outraged that you have nothing better to do (in your minds) than to attack the other side. This is worse than children – this "he said / she said" mentality. Even children know "names can never hurt you". We are not stupid and we will hold accountable the people who try and derail the change we voted for.

    December 8, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  16. bob

    This is from the same clown that stood in front of America and announced "The war is lost, the surge has failed." Just for that this jerk needs to step aside.

    December 8, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  17. DOG1

    So, the head of the RNC thinks we should have continued with slavery! Or at least that's how the Republicans/Fox would have responded to Steeles comment had he been a Democrat.

    December 8, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  18. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    Politics as usual.
    So if he had used an example of people waffling on women's right to vote, would Steele have found a problem with that too? Of course.
    This is yet another case of politicians taking specific words out of context and trying to sensationalize them. Make the other guy look bad.
    Both political parties do it all the time. Notice Rush Limbaugh or John Boehner didn't carry the ball on this one?

    December 8, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  19. Lucas Leverett - Nashville TN

    Well, Mr. Steele, it is because OUR PARTY is the one that's always stood up for rights of all people, while yours has stood in the way.

    December 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  20. Shoot

    Cry baby, Republicans do this crap all the time and did so when they were in power as well. I feel no sorrow for them and I agree w/ Reid's statement. How about instead of whining about this you sit down and work on reforming health care.

    December 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Reid is right on point! No one is bringing up the race card Steele, stop trying to cloud the issue with your Party's typically inappropriate rhetoric! Reid drew an analogy. He did not depict GOPers as racists (but you've done that to the Dems), or call you murderers (you've done that too Steele, see: Death Panels), or call your Presidency illegitimate (see: Birthers). And the analogy depicts the current RethugliKlan Party very accurately. You guys (Reps.) are against any type of forward movement. You are entrenched in the status quo. You won't change, NOR, more importantly allow for the necessary change to occur to move our country forward. So yes. You are indeed acting like your forefathers in NOT recognizing that what USED to work and be acceptable is no longer. As someone on this blog site very aptly put it: GOP EVOLVE OR DIE!!

    December 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  22. Concerned Doctor

    I am a psychiatrist who treats children and adults. I have too many patients who are not able to receive appropriate treatment due to insurance limitations or no insurance. I find this very troubling and understand and respect Senator Reid's aggressive use of history in his analogy about how his opponents are responding to the health care reform. As an African American male, I understand people having discomfort with Senator Reid using slavery as an analogy. However, I do not feel that he should make any apology.

    Michael Steele discredited our president when President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Steele undermined his credibility when he did that. In my opinion, Steele's request for an apology is only because Steele disagrees with the health care policy. Further Steele is desperately trying to advance his political career.

    December 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  23. GWA

    GOP idiots. Nice Spin you buffoon.
    Nice “fake outrage”

    I just hope the mindless republican base does not do what it always does and blindly believe the spin you are applying to Mr. Reid’s comments.

    What he said was historically many Americans wanted slavery to remain in place because it was so profitable and benefitted so many wealthy Americans at the expense of the slaves.

    Like healthcare the Republicans are doing the exact same thing. They want the exact same Healthcare system to remain in place because it benefits the rich/insurance companies at the expense of the poor and middle class. Their plan is to delay until they can defeat.

    Spot on Mr. Reid.
    Is there no depth that the Republicans will not sink to try to be relevant?

    December 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. Howard Rodgers

    where were the RNC when Rush and Glenn Beck along with other Republicans called Mary Landrieu a sitting SENATOR a "high class prositute" when she secured money for her state... that should be an outrage and yet no coverage

    December 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. Faye

    But Harry Reid is correct. No apology needed. I think that there were opponents to every peice of major legislation to improve the lives of people in this country and those opponents were wrong. I will be very annoyed if Reid apologizes, and if this makes a different I am black too and I am not offended by the remark at all. There is always the wrong side and the right side of history, you just have to pick your side

    December 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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