January 9th, 2010
04:45 PM ET
11 years ago

Reid apologizes for 'Negro dialect' comment

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/09/art.reid1.gi.jpg caption="Reid apologized Saturday for remarks he made about then-candidate Barack Obama."]Washington (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized Saturday following reports he had privately described then-candidate Barack Obama during the presidential campaign as a black candidate who could be successful thanks in part to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

Journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann reported the remarks in their new book “Game Change,” which was purchased by CNN Saturday at a Washington-area bookstore. The book is slated for official release next Tuesday.

“He (Reid) was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama - a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination," they write.

“I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” Reid said in a statement to CNN.

(Update 4:00 pm: In a statement released by the White House, the president accepted Reid's apology: "Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.")

In his Saturday statement, Reid said he apologized “for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.

“I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda.”

Reid also pointed to his efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry, among other legislation favored by African-American voters: “I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African American community.”

The Nevada Democrat – who waited to formally endorsed Obama until after the conclusion of the tough presidential primary battle in 2008 - is facing an uphill re-election fight this year in his home state.

–CNN Political Producer Rebecca Sinderbrand contributed to this report

Update: Republicans called on Democratic lawmakers and candidates Saturday to condemn Reid's original remarks. “For those who hope to one day live in a color-blind nation it appears Harry Reid is more than a few steps behind them," National Republican Senatorial Committee communication director Brian Walsh said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long history of embarrassing and controversial remarks by the senior Senator from Nevada. He always shares exactly what’s on his mind with little regard to perception or consequences, and it’s one of the reasons he is the most vulnerable incumbent Senator in either party facing re-election.

“Nevada deserves better from its leaders and this November, voters in the Silver State will have an opportunity to elect a new Senator who will put their views and values first and foremost. In the meantime, we hope Reid’s fellow Democrats in the Senate and on the campaign trail will stand up and rightly condemn these racially insensitive remarks by their elected leader.”


Filed under: Harry Reid • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (304 Responses)
  1. Rob

    Harry Reid makes a great case for Congressional term limits!

    January 9, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  2. ib

    Leave it up to liberals to cover Reids butt by blaming republicans for something he said. They are good at blaming everyone and not owning up to anthing unless it's something good.

    January 9, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  3. HaHaHa

    I am laughing my T$#l off. And the libs call Republicans racists. LOL

    January 9, 2010 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  4. Biased

    So all democratic original Obama supporters are tripping all over themselves to rush out saying they forgive Reid for his comments. Funny how Clyburn was so quick to come out and use race against both Clintons falsey yet now wants to move on and we shouldn't worry about Reid's comments. Sharpton appears to be doing the same. Seems "race" is only important to certain people when it is of benefit to their motives or intentions. I guess we must all forgive Reid so healthcare can pass, but we were told to hate the Clintons and elect Obama instead, and now when anyone comes out with negative comments about Obama's policies they are branded 99% of the time as nothing but racists, and therefore their concerns should be dismissed. This display of the double standard from the democratic party is a real eyeopener to the hypocritical standards they engage in.

    January 9, 2010 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  5. whaley41

    I am sorry to say, but you liberals would not be very forgiving if this has been said by a Republican senator from the South, would you? He or she would immediately be bashed and called a racist. But it's OK for one of your own to make a remark like that.

    January 9, 2010 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  6. GuyInVA

    Dear Harry,

    Don't let the republicans and other race traitors get you down. I know what you meant. Some of "those people" are actually my friends... well, acquaintances... well, some of them work for me. I supported this president, although he is kind of "uppity".

    Yours truly,

    Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV)

    January 9, 2010 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  7. A.Darton

    Not all Republicans are racists, it's just that the ones with some common sense have let the big mouth racists ones push them to the back of the bus. They have no say so, or they are choosing to keep their mouth closed. Something Reid should have done. But the President accepted his apology. How nice.

    January 9, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  8. Perry

    "Sir, you're talking to a Negro". – Steve Martin – The Jerk

    January 9, 2010 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  9. crim

    Apologize all you want, your thoughts are your words. Just another hypocrite, just another racist.

    January 9, 2010 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  10. tim smith

    Love how the liberals are saying it is a no big deal, which is right. But if a conservative had made the same legitimate "observation", they would bbq-ing them.

    No worries, hypocrisy is fine. As bad as the republicans are, they will win in the mid-term elections.

    January 9, 2010 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  11. Nan

    Reid has no need to apologize for his statement. He only stated the truth. Black people know this and say the exact same thing all the time. We just say it among ourselves. He was stating a fact and I don't think it was of malicious intent.

    January 9, 2010 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  12. Jean 2

    I am a 71 years old black woman who votes for the canidates that I choose after investigating their voting records, and as much information as I am able to find. I have lived through all of the name changes and one thing I know for sure is "It does not matter what we are called we are still black in America with all the trappings that follow".

    We allow this kind of thing to distract us from the real issues. Reid should not have to apologize , he was telling the truth making an observation that if the black community would admitt it, knows is true. We know that we reguard each other the same way.

    It's time to direct our energy toward something we can make a differance in.

    We need to stop letting the media pundit direct our chain of thought.

    Get over your self and spend this time for the advancement of our people.

    This is an old over done argument.

    January 9, 2010 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  13. John

    Public figures 'apologize' only because they get caught not because of whatever they say or do.

    January 9, 2010 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  14. tea house

    from what i understand, there are many whites in this country who speak something less than the king's perfect english. how exactly do we describe the pronunciation idiosyncrasies, elisions and slang of white americans? we don't, because they are white and however they choose to speak is not subject to criticism or parody, nor is it ever considered worthy of comment. i have no problem with harry reid's comments, he is an older person and can be expected to say something that sounds a bit outdated but is not necessarily offensive. but conservatives who are jumping on this as yet another example (in their minds at least) of hypocrisy among democrats would do well to shut up, considering how disrespectful they've been to the office of the president since a black man took over the job.

    January 9, 2010 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  15. mountain mama

    Who really cares at this point? A little late for an apology. It was obviously inappropriate at the time... as it is now.

    January 9, 2010 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  16. Greg in MO

    I am stunned that some of you turn this against Republicans. It's very insulting that some of you believe every Republican is racist. Isn't that the same stereotyping of which Reid is guilty? You liberals are morons. How's that for stereotyping?

    January 9, 2010 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  17. charlie in Maine

    Honestly you are looking for conflict where none exists. The question is not does Reid have racists veiw it is can he overcome them for the good of the country and work with the President to bring positive change obviously he can he respects the President an so do I. Maybe I've seen too much "Saturday Night Live" but this middle aged white guy thinks it would have been funny to here President Obama in his best "vecacular dialect say "Ain't no thang".

    Look he is the President for a darned fine reason ......he got elected (more than I can say for W in his first term) He is everybody's President no matter where in the US he was born and no matter the color of his skin. Case closed.

    January 9, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  18. JSmith

    The racist comments here are idotic beyond belief. What exactly is the Negro dialect? As a person of color who happens to be of primarily African descent, I couldn't tell you. Maybe it's because my very large family always spoke English. It's incredibly ignorant to assume that just because you watched a few "black" movies or met a few "blacks" that all persons of color speak with a poor dialect .

    On any day I'd rather speak proper English than the redneck dialect of the last president.

    January 9, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  19. RealDeal

    I posted a comment earlier about how dark skin and using a "negro accent" are huge political liabilities in these racist United States, and how anyone with brains knows this, including Reid, who's comment was right on the money. I also mentioned how ridiculous it is that people 'in the know' – like senators – can and do talk about this sort of thing behind closed doors, but that the general public isn't smart enough in a big picture sense to be able to handle it and understand it.

    Funny, CNN pulled it, it got 'moderated out.'

    We'll see if they print this one...

    January 9, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  20. Sean

    You all should be ashamed of yourselves. You are all hypocrites. When a republican says something like this, you folks attack them to the point of them resigning. Now that Reid shares his thoughts, you come to his defense? Why? Do you really think that by defending him he is right? you are just fooling yourselves...

    January 9, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  21. bleugryphon

    This story is sad in itself, it shows how the Left in this country already feels about minorities, inferior minions who can't speak correctly, to control at their whim. I find it even worse at the comments written here, by the Liberals, who are hypocrites and are obviously racists. The majority of these comments were very racists but at least show their true color and what Harry Reid and the rest of his ilk are, REDS. I now understand how the Democrat Party was Pro-Slavery and Pro-Jim Crow, with this type of membership. Do you guys still wear your sheets?

    January 9, 2010 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  22. SMB

    Are they sure he said no NEGRO Dialect? I bet you he keeps an "i" in his back pocket. Liberals open there mouths enough and bones eventually fall out.....

    January 9, 2010 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  23. Danny J

    I can't believe the libs on this blog are supporting Reid on this or spinning it into something anti-republican. That is sick, disgusting and hypocritical. You all should be ashamed.

    January 9, 2010 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  24. Bald Bob

    We all make mistakes. However the fact that Obama was the first really viable Presidential candidate certainly played a factor in the election. This is combined with the strong oratory skills that was able to ignite the passions of millions of people who were fed up with the past administrations debacles and stumbles added to the momentum.

    As far as the "no Negro dialect" that was the show stopper in what Reid said, particularly in the light that so many people are looking to distance ourselves from any sense of degrautory remarks about any race but particularly the African American popluation with Obama being elected President..

    Take thing in the overall context and action of any person rather than an isolated comment or sitiuation. For those who read the Bible, remember the words of "Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged!" and "Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Stone"

    January 9, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  25. tarheel

    Since you are an ultra-liberal Democrat, I don't see a problem with what you said, because your heart's in the right place. It would only be a problem if you were a Republican and said the same thing word for word because we know you were being a hateful racist.

    January 9, 2010 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
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