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. independent

    Any person (white, brown or black) who doesnt believe that Obama's bi-racial blackground was a factor (along with the abysmal record of the GOP under Bush) in the last elctions is being dishonest. To that extent Reid is saying what we all know to be the fact. However there is something disturbing about the choice of words. "Negro"?! What is that? How about Black – African-American? Are black people still "Negro" in the head and mind of Mr Reid?
    What people say in private often shows who they really are.

    January 9, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    I am truly sorry you heard my racist remarks.

    January 9, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Sara Wright

    I am not certain that Mr. Reid has much to apologize for, this is reality in the United States of America. Sadly, even Black people sometimes have skin color issues. We have been dreadfully brainwashed via the need/desire to assimilate, as it relates to the mainstream's so-called prevailing standard of beauty. Black people in general and particularly those outside of the "standard of beauty" stand-out more, so sadly some unenlightened people believe that the dark ones less attractive and worse that they are more ominous and criminally inclined. Mr. Obama would not be President of these United States if he were a dark skinned, more physically imposing brother. The dialect issue/comment may kinda insulting, but we foster that crap, with the rhyming, and playful, rebellious usage of the queen's English – I would not vote for someone who did not have an exceptional command of the language, like Sarah Palin for example. It is not so much a shame that he said it, but it is more a shame that conceptually speaking, much of what he said and the inter-related concepts are true.

    Sara

    January 9, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  4. Jill

    I don't know why he should apologize. This is the truth and you have to have correct grammar if you are going to lead the United States of America and talk to foreign leaders as well as constituents properly. Eubonics does not cut it and is really slang like white people going around saying "ain't" and "I already done did it".

    January 9, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  5. rob

    Oh my goodness! Are you serious? When will this stop? The more we censor ourselves the more we take away our freedom of speech.

    Grow thicker skin everyone and stop being so sensitive!

    January 9, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. al white

    Here' s a shocker, Reid is an idiot!

    January 9, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. Leonidas Chapman

    Goodbye Senator Reid! (: Cheers!

    January 9, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    I am truly sorry you heard my racist comments.

    January 9, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  9. Teddy Starr

    Are you kidding me Harry???? There are no apologies for living in 1950's America. You have shown yourself as a racist begot and we no longer need, or want you, in our party. Next.

    January 9, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. Darrell

    Hello,

    Harry Reid was correct, he need not apologize for putting the state of racial beliefs in America out there to be read. This article is typical of American people wanting to cruxify the person who speaks the truth, we are so full of sh#$, for always double talking. I am African American and don't see any fault in his statements, it is the honest the God truth.

    January 9, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. ray munholland

    it is hard to believe any politician these days would mispeak in this manner, no matter whether it was private and off the record. that being said, it quite believable that the "party of no" that had never been so uniform in opposition to past presidents, that never condemned hangings in effigy, that failed to condemn the toting of guns to rallies and presidential appearances would seek to hypocritically criticize the remarks of reid.

    just when you think that they can't sink to lower depths of political depravity, they continue to amaze us!!!!

    January 9, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. Gwan Tar

    .... " 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'

    I Dont see anything wrong with his comments, they were honest and like it or not CORRECT.
    I am Black, African American, and the CONTEXTS in which he used those words were not offensive, just an honest observation and opinion that happen to be RIGHT.

    January 9, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  13. Jim

    I am black man from Africa and Senator Reid should apologize his comments.

    It is true that talking like Negro is not going to get you anywhere in America.

    The black Americans in this country should adopt to the right dialect which will make them successful.

    No reason to apologize. The thruth hurts

    That dialect has ignorance all over it...

    Jim

    January 9, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  14. Da Expat

    I seem to recall a time when some of the self imposed leadership of the African – American community proposed teaching in a dialect referred to as Ebonics. It's a fact that it is spoken, and to my mind demeans the members of the black community.

    If one wants to get ahead on of the necessary skills is clear concise communication. I believe our president has demonstrated this with his strong command of the English language, and successes in politics. The black community should look to emulate Mr. Obama.

    ALOHA
    Da Expat

    January 9, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  15. VegasGurl

    Well considering where Reid is from, not surprised about his ignorant remarks. But then again I wasn't surprised about Palin's accusations of Obama running around with terrorists and all of her nonsense either. Ignorance running rampant these days whether Republican or Democrat! Ignorant people do ignorant things.

    January 9, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    So what's the problem? There is a difference between the way most blacks speak and the way most whites speak. That's just a fact, and everyone already knows it. Not only is the dialect different, but there is a lot of difference between pronunciation–for instance, most whites say "ask," while most blacks say "aks." Mr. Obama happens to not use negro dialect for the most part, and he says "ask." I think Mr. Reid was implying that Obama could, if he so chose, use Hillary Clinton's pandering technique of saying "y'all" when giving speeches to predominately black audiences.

    January 9, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  17. Teddy Starr

    Harry Ried has disappointed millions of Americans, and Democrats of all shades. Harry Ried has let down, not only Nevadans but all Americans, including ruining his own son's chance to lead.

    January 9, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. Lourdes P.

    If Senator Reid has not learned that not thinking before he speaks causes harm, then his ignorance will continue. If I lived in NV, I more than likely would not re-elect him.

    January 9, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  19. 60driver

    I guess that the enlightened liberals aren't really that enlightened after all. If Rush Limbaugh (who I hate) made this comment he would be chased off the air, a right wing politician run out of town. It is interesting to see the lack of response Mr. Reid is getting for ignorant side showing.

    January 9, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. Jim

    Sorry, He should not apologize his comments

    January 9, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. Kyle

    This is not about Reid.

    Where's the problem with what Reid said? What am I missing?

    Why would Reid regret saying that, and even call the President to apologize? Obama did well because of his total presentation. Race, intelligence, experience, ability to be flexible in speech, his gender, sexual preference, etc.

    It is simply an objective observation. Like this one – I am White , from the South and can speak like a Southerner complete with a down home accent, or I can articulate in stage English. Depends on the situation. I can use my race to advantage or disadvantage based on cultural values that are real. Should I apologize to myself for saying that?

    I also adorn myself in certain attire to present to others a certain understood quality of understanding, like Obama when he wears a suit. Duh.

    Obama's race, and his self awareness of it, DOES enter the picture. It is a simple fact. If you have a problem with anyone saying so, grow waaaaay up. Are people really in denial of that?

    Hard to believe this is even an issue!

    January 9, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  22. Johnny at Work

    "a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one"

    I am no Reid fan, but I am still trying to find the offensive part of this comment. For one thing, the comment is true.

    Is the "Negro" word offensive?

    Is the fact that many "Negros, Blacks, African Americans speak in a dialect that makes Brooklynese sound refined offensive?

    Please, people of color, or whatever you call yourselves these days, please tell us honkies, crackers, kikes, hymies, and slopes what you want to be called so we won't offend your sensitivities.

    For a people so sensitive that it matters what others call you, it amazes me how you slaughter each other with wreckless abandon in the US and Africa.

    The same clowns that whine and cry over their ethnic name have no problem putting a cap in homey's head.

    What special treatment and favors are the Dems going to come up with to make amends for this "offense".

    January 9, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  23. jerseyfinfan

    . “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.
    --------
    Which Democrat IS interested in living in a colorblind nation?

    January 9, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  24. Bill Will

    Each party has a spokesperson designated to be the "buzzard-on-a-fence" waiting for something to be said by the opposition that they can pounce all over it. I don't think that we are so ignorant that we can't see through your schemes-so STOP IT!!!! I would never vote for Harry Reid but the Republicans cheapen themselves with their silly reactions. Democrats are just as bad.

    January 9, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    I can only imagine the fallout if it was a republican who said that. He'd be resigning in a couple of weeks.

    January 9, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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