January 9th, 2010
04:45 PM ET
12 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. Allen, ND


    I need Harry's vote on Healthcare and his blind support on other issues so if I forgive him he has no choice but to bow before me.....course he is already doing that.....but he is majority leader and is writing legislation for me.... and paying off...uh bribing....can't say that it is not Chicago....offering incentives to Senators to vote for my bills.

    Yep, he is forgiven.....

    January 9, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  2. Jasmine in Germany

    Sorry, but as a teacher of the international lingua franca, Obama certainly has an Ebonic dialect and pronunciation. It is sometimes difficult for international translators to keep up with him. I suppose Obama picked up the speech patterns due to his work, marriage, and environment after he arrived in Chicago. It is always important for heads of state to articulate clearly and well in their mother-tongue, their comments will be going around the world. Obama has room for improvement. There's still a little room for head shaking. Don't panic, it's not "W".

    January 9, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  3. CrazyHorse

    Issued a statement in a few hours. Only if Obama could move so fast on important situations.

    January 9, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  4. AJ

    Harry Reid is the worst majority "leader" in my lifetime. The man is a total idiot. Let's hope he is defeated in the midterms and the Democrats replace him with someone intelligent and effective.

    January 9, 2010 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  5. Bryan h

    I am sure we should not trust this blog.....CNN will edit out all of the remarks that are remotely on point, and point out the media's part in this. Shocking I know!

    January 9, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. Scott, Tucson

    I guess Harry Reid got tired of obama using the Senate mens room and wanted him to move on hence obama's run for the White House.

    January 9, 2010 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  7. Wanda

    This country can be so backward in its thinking. . I am encouraged that our country elected President Obama. I just hope that the people of this country will actually give the man a chance. It is going to take him more than a year to clean up this mess.

    January 9, 2010 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  8. A.D.,Godinez

    Harry Reid should resign as Senate Majority leader.
    There is an undertone of racism in the Republican commentary, and Reid's resignation would set the new standard and elevate the discourse in our country.

    January 9, 2010 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  9. Dem in FL

    Truth hurts, I guess. People never like to hear the political truth...everything is sugar coated.

    January 9, 2010 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. Doug

    What so many of you fail to understand is that if a republican said that, you'd be shouting from the roof tops for their resignation. In fact, you have in the past and they were forced to resign. So it appears that when a democrat makes a racial statement, then clearly they have just mis-spoken. However, if a republican says the same thing, then they are a racist. Before I die, I just hope for once in my life, we can treat all politicians the same. Make a racist statement and you either stay or go for either party. If those that say this is no big deal can honestly sit there and say if Rush Limbaugh had said this, you wouldn't be calling for his resignation or boycotting his advertisers, you're lying to yourself.

    I'll ask you to do this....picture Rush Limbaugh had said that. Now, what actions would you take. Write them down, I'll wait........

    Got it written down? Great. Now, scratch off the name Rush Limbaugh and write in it's place, Harry Reid, and follow your own advice on the actions you wrote.

    That's what integrity means. You should look it up because you obviously don't understand it's meaning.

    January 9, 2010 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  11. The Lady

    Responding to Paul"

    You sound just like a red neck, you missed the point here as most red necks do. Why is it that if one black person has a negro dialect all black people have a negro dialect, do all white people have a red neck dialect? Why was Reid comments even necessary? When White people make comments like this Black people assume they are racist because they use words like negro when it has no meaning to the topic. That is the point you are missing stop judging pleeople by the color of their skin and judge them by who they are. By the way Sarah Palin has a negro dialect but I never hear anything reported on the way she talks.

    January 9, 2010 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  12. Joe M

    REID'S, popularity in Nevada, is 33% tonight anf falling like a rock in a well. Every where you look there's anti-Reid bumper stickers and signs even anti- Reid sign's in the local barber shops..He is not welcome any where but in Clark County, Las Vegas, area and the rich casino owner's who expect big favors from him..And he sucks money out of them...He is one of the biggest crooks in Nevada. He makes Al Capone and John Dillenger look like BOY SCOUTS.

    Joe M
    Fallon, Nevada.

    January 9, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  13. Donna

    The word "racist" has been stretched so thin to cover so much that it almost means nothing anymore. I am not a Reid or Obama person. I'm just a person like everyone else, and we talk and say things and have every right to do so. Listen to a rap "song" sometime, if you can stomach it. Much much worse said there, and for some reason, not only acceptable, but awarded!!

    January 9, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  14. Albert K. L.A., CA

    Actually, I voted for Obama but still did not think that he could be successful because I had doubts that my country would yet be willing to elect a black candidate, not even a “light-skinned” black candidate. For the first time since I earned my B.A. in American history I am proud to see my country let freedom ring from Capitol Hill,. I am proud of how many of my fellow white voters voted for Obama. It s sad that Harry Reid apologized, or felt he had to, for having a good outlook on how far America has come since 1964, when it took a civil rights act to protect the rights of black voters. IMO, Harry Reid apologized only because so many Americans cannot balance two thoughts in their heads at the same time and are unable to see that what he said was true and that it came true. Someday, because Obama has done so well, and America will continue to improve iit's race relations, a dark -skinned black candidate will be President. Don't expect me to say I am sorry for that either.

    January 9, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |

    To me, Harry Reid was describing and admiring Obama's strengths, not condemning him for his race.
    Harry Reid has done nothing wrong.

    January 9, 2010 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  16. agro21

    Harry, do what Obama does, blame GW Bush and all will be better.

    January 9, 2010 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  17. e hicks

    If you think what ried said was racist, you yourself must have racism constantly running through your mind. Dissect what he said, he was just stating an observation of how people vote. Recognizing that there is a speech pattern that is specific to blacks exists does not constitute racism. Do you really think Obama would have made it in politics if he talked like Flava Flav? Comon...

    January 9, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  18. The Lady

    If a black congressman made this statement, "John McCain is smart for a white man" they would be asking him to resign. Comments like this are not professional nor are they necessary to get the point across.

    January 9, 2010 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  19. Indy

    Well at least he had the gonads to stand up and admit to what he thinks was wrong, just like Obama admitted that he takes blame for the Christmas attack.
    If only the Republicans could admit that they are sorry for trying to fear everyone into "peeing their pants" everytime they bring up the word terrorist. The Republicans could apoligise for "peeing their pants" everytime they speak about terrorism and expect that we are going to be scared into supporting them.

    January 9, 2010 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  20. Ken

    If a Republican would have said this he would have been crucified.

    January 9, 2010 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  21. catmomtx

    Paul :
    Hey, folks, it's NO BIG DEAL! Grow up. If black people are offended at this it's because they're ashamed of the way they talk. If they don't like the way they talk then they should change it. If they like the way they talk then this should not offend them at all. It's no different than a "Yankee" referencing the "southern dialect," or visa-versa. Most southerners I know (and I live in the deep south) LIKE the way they talk.

    Just another case of over-sensitive minorities looking for any reason to cry "foul!"

    Hate to break it to you Paul but the majority of people commenting on this are probably white and are commenting just to get people riled up. So you might want to check who actually is being over sensitive and looking for any reason to cry foul ! It seems ever since 1/20/09, whites have taken every opportunity they can to cry foul. Including forgetting that 9/11, happened on Bush's watch.

    Black people have no illusions about why white people voted or didn't vote for President Obama. Black people also fully understand why so many whites seem to have a problem that our President even though he is bi racial identifies as being black. The majority of black people fully understand that this continues to be a racist country and no matter what President Obama does to restore this country people will still whine, moan and groan.

    Deep South, who would have guessed.

    January 9, 2010 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  22. Wiredoc

    Hmmmm........think the same people who called for Trent Lott to resign his leadership post after his Strom Thurmond comments will also demand the same of Harry? Don't hold your breath. Then again maybe the dems will take the opportunity to encourage Harry to "retire" a la Dodd so they can run a more competitive candidate. This guy is done.......good riddance.

    January 9, 2010 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  23. Karl in Charleston,SC

    "Truth hurts."

    January 9, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  24. El Kababa

    Are we going to pretend that race, appearance, and dialect don't matter in American politics and that seasoned politicians don't evaluate those qualities all the time? It would be silly to pretend that something we all know to be true is not true.

    Americans cannot talk about race, except for assure each other that they are not racist. Of course Obama's race combined with a Harvard trained mind combined with the absence of a southern accent helped him immensely. Americans are very influenced by things like that.

    January 9, 2010 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  25. realUSA

    Typical democrats voter:
    illegal low life criminals scumbags free loader crook and pervert

    January 9, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13