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. keith A. sillsbury

    That just shows you don't even know what your talking about steele. The comment is about how repugnots are the party of NO, do nothings, hold up the process of change. You really don't understand, do you.

    December 8, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. gino

    What Reid said is perfectly true. No apology needed, except from those who have tried to block every move that sought to improve the lot of ordinary people:Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights–the list goes on and on.

    December 8, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. Dave

    Oh the outrage! QQ more, please.

    Calling the GOP's obstructionist tactics out for what they are is not a fault. If the remark hit a little too close to home, I'm sure they are upset.

    Please note, he did not call the opposition "slavers," simply compared their tactics to those used in the past against reforms which, in this day, seem obvious.

    Hopefully this period of time will be remembered in such a light, if we're lucky.

    December 8, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Robert

    My goodness! What ignorance! Harry Reid is either stupid or revisionist who is rewriting history! The party that protected slavery is the Democratic Party! The party that ended the practice and kept the Union together was the Republican Party! (Look at the Democratic Party platform in1864 under Dem. Candidate George McClellan. The platform called for the end of the war thus allowing the southern states to leave!) Harry Reid you do not belong in that great establishment! People of Nevada, kick the bum out of office!

    December 8, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |

    Why do I have no trouble understanding the comparison?
    And what "apology" – who has been insulted?
    It is painfully obvious that the republicans are obstructing, misinterpreting, and obstructing some more.

    December 8, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. Gene

    Dear Senator Reid – If you want government run everything, move to Venezula or Cuba. Then you will see who the slaves are.

    December 8, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |

    Why should he apoligize when his statements are the truth, steele and the rest of the party of NO need to wake up to the needs of the american public. all they want to do is block every idea that the democrats come up with. they still do not get it. they lost because of their attitude. only help the super rich.

    December 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  8. Mike Gebhardt

    Demanding an apology? There is a thread of truth in what Harry Reid says and the opposition to health care reform is paid to be outraged. The public can figure this banter out. If politicians had to apologize for every spin they put on things, they would be seeking forgiveness all the time. It seems like the Republican Party is too little to late on the health care issue.

    December 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. A guy

    hmm.....I seem to remember not long ago when a certain party with the initials of G.O.P. was castigating anyone who wouldn't follow Bush and the war machine into Iraq as unpatriotic dolts who were giving aid and comfort to terrorists.

    Kinda sucks when you get labeled in a negative way, doesn't it? 🙂

    December 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. Gene

    Dear Senator Reid – If you want government run everything, move to Venezuela or Cuba. Then you will see who the slaves are.

    December 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. Mike Ross

    Politician's take things out of context all the time, and this is another prime example. Mr Reid was referring to the pointless obstructionism and delaying tactics used during the debates about slavery, medicare, and civil rights. While the Republican party was the party that freed the slaves, they certainly did their best to obstruct medicare and civil rights. Feigning outrage is a stupid childish thing to do. Mr. Steele should take to his bully pulpit and apologize to the 122 American's who die everyday because of health insurance in this country.

    December 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  12. Ken in NC

    Well Mr. Steele, the Republicans are using the same tatics here that they used in an effort to slow down and stall the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You Sir, are not the only Black man that was living back in 1964 that happens to remember how intent Republicans were on doing Civil Rights except that they felt the nation should do it at a much slower pace so as to allow the nation to become comfortable with the "New Found Rights of Negros"

    Mr. Steele, someone needs to take your job and "SHOVE IT".

    Thus sayieth a Black Man at 61 years of age.

    December 8, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Staying in Context

    Steele is obviously taking this comment out of context for his, and his parties, own gain. No one said, "White vs Black," even though that's how slavery was managed at that time. I'm a Pro Black guy and I'm not even offended by it. I can see the relationship of his subjects in his comment. Steele, you're a Tom who's only out for personal gain. You will be nothing more than the Tom who's a figure head of the RNC.

    December 8, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. Wendy

    Same old diversion tactic. Insread of coming up with anything helpful, pick at some tactless comment by the opponents. Chairman Steele, while slavery is an extreme and tragic example, many tens of thousands are dying because they have made or are making a choice to pay for food and housing over medical care, or they're already bankrupt due to previous medical bills. That's also an extreme and tragic situation. So do something to actually help, or shut up.

    December 8, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  15. Dave AZ

    Mr. Steele might also have pointed out that it was the Republican Party under Lincoln that insisted on the aboliton of slavery and the Democrats who dug in their heals to retain the status quo.

    December 8, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  16. Alex

    Us was last industrial country to abolish slavery and US is last industrial country not to have universal health coverage.
    Current healthcare system is the system where people go first bancrupt and then die because of denied health care when the get sick. I absolutely agree that anyone fighting to preserve that kind of system is on wrong side of history, just like in the case of slavery.

    December 8, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  17. Brice


    That is not how his message comes out. Republican forces Steele to say something because he's slave as hyprocity too much.

    December 8, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  18. NVa Native

    Historically Reid is correct. Repubs have never willingly wanted to address anything that deals with social or racial issues. In fact on social and civil liberties issues they always want to de-evole the US.
    Steele is not smart, charismatic, or skilled in any way to be in public relations, neither Dems or Repubs respect his opinions. The conclusion is that the only reason he is the RNC chair is because he's the highest level black politician the repubs could recruite for the position. Talk about using the "race card"?!

    December 8, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  19. Brian

    Michael Steele is not a very smart man.

    December 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. Dan in San Marcos

    Mr. Steele knows well that Mr. Reid's point wasn't about slavery at all, but about social progress being blocked by those who adhere to the status quo. He could have used child labor or the right of women to vote just as well. At times in our history enough people have realized that there was a "right thing to do" and did it in spite of opposition. We are at another such point regarding health care. You can bet that if members of Congress and their families were subject to the same problems with pre-existing conditions and denial of coverage that millions of us are, they would understand that the status quo isn't right and would act quickly to reform the system.

    December 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. Ned

    The very meaning of "conservative" is one who resists progress. They can argue that they save the country from progressing when doing so is a mistake, but they cannot argue Reid's point - historically, they have stood in the way of many important changes, and it's not unfair or inaccurate to compare their opposition to health care reform to all the other worthwhile things they've stood against . They always stand against anything they think hurts the rich and big business to help the common people. Steele knows that, which is why he made no effort to challenge Reid's statements on the facts - he can't say Reid's wrong, he can only say he's offended that Reid said it. And before someone else points out the obvious - Lincoln was a republican - it's a very different party now. Lincoln was a progressive republican, and today, there's no such thing.

    December 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  22. Big John

    I think Mr. Reid is right... there was a lot of opposition to ending slavery. It took a civil war to end it, that's how divided they were back then and now the party of "No" is just as opposed to anything the Democratic party suggests. Pathetic Mr Steele, it's just pathetic.

    December 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. tom

    Harry Reid is not a very smart man. Does he really think that Michael Steele who is African American and head of the RNC wants slavery??????????????? Harry Reid is a moron. I think it is safe to say that Harry Reid will not get any African American votes for his re election bid. I am an African American man and I oppose these reforms so does that make me want slavery???????? I am completely offended by Harry Reids statements about slavery, and also about Tiger Woods the other day. Harry Reid is obviously very racist and it will be good for the country and Nevada when he is voted out.

    December 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. bubba

    Perhaps they should have slowed down, look at what shock-emancipation has given this country.

    December 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    And furthermore: stop working yourself up into an indignant hizzy-fit over imaginary slights. If there is one thing that GOPers ar reknowned for is crying a river when someone gives them a little taste of their own medicine. Reid could've gotten a little diriter with his comment, but decency prevailed. I can't say the same for your team Steele.

    Everytime I see a story on you on the ticker I cringe, because I know that you'll be allowing yourself to let someone else's BRAIN put words in YOUR mouth. I find that embarrasing as a woman of color. I think YOU owe ME an apology Steele!

    December 8, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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