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. Alvin

    I am asking anyone who reads this, please do not be fooled by the hypocritic Rebublicans who at every turn try to pull the veil ovet the eyes of the Nation. These are the same people who claim that a terrorist attack never occured while George Bush was president. The same ones who called the President " uppity". Now they want to have this fake outrage about an innocent remark by a very good man. NICE TRY! I hope people will pay attention to what republicans are trying to do especially with this whole rewriting of history that they have undertaken lately.

    January 9, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. Ray Booth

    Harry Reid has no sincerity in anything that he says, and his apology should not be taken seriously. This is another example of Democrats privately disliking black Americans but using them for political gain. Wake up, black America; the Democrat party wants to keep you subjugated and they are not your friends.

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

    Republicans,and some White folks, understand your culture and heritage effect your speech. White folks raised in diverse communities usually glide thru easily with thir speech. Reid spoke honestly and didn't deny saying it.

    Republicans, talk you John McCain about his "that one"debate comment, and get some diversity in your ranks instead tokenizing Michael Steele. Better yet maybe get some diversity lessons, so you might define, understand, and enbrace it.

    Who knows maybe your next convention will reflect an audience that reflects America, instead of Sara Palin, NASCAR,tea party look:)

    January 9, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  4. ed

    Well, unfortunately he's right, as far as language is concerned! He just said it in the wrong way! Who is to blame? Well, I don't know, but even people from Africa, english speakers who come to this country, have better pronunciation than most African-Americans! Now I must ask, why is that? Maybe it starts at having HIGHER EXPECTATIONS, better schools, respect for knowledge in the African-Am community, and the shunning of rap! Good luck!

    January 9, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  5. Slick

    You mean to tell me the ultra PC man who accuses everyone that disagrees with the President of being racist actually said a racist thing....OMG

    Hey libs! Get over yourselves, you are far from perfect. You are too republicans! but at least in theory Conservatives want the government to leave them a lone.

    Get out of my life progressives

    January 9, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  6. Kenneth Wenger

    I don't see where Sen. Reid went wrong. President Obama (full disclosure, I'm a big supporter) is a light skinned "black" man and his oration skills are legendary. This political correctness is just going to far when we can't tap the right to speak clearly.

    January 9, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. Celestino Junior-+

    Poor Guy!

    He must not be blamed. Those who voted for him are the ones that commited a big mistake. Did they have any hidden interest in his election?

    January 9, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  8. WBN

    Yes, there are Dems and Repubs who get careless with their language in private–in fact, I'm sure this is true of other ethnic groups, too. I am no Reid fan, but his comments are complimentary of the President, but just not couched in wise language, especially "politically correct" language (the latter of which is ruining our nation). Of course, if it was a conservative under Reid's microscope, he would have been maligned by all libs and a number of the kind conservatives who are always wnating the libs to like them.

    January 9, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. Ed

    Actually, Harry Reid is 70 years old. But hey, I misspoke. Judge me on my track record.

    January 9, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Donald in CA

    Nevada will take care of Harry Reid. Most whites in this country dont look at blacks as equals so why be surprised.

    January 9, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. Peter - ( Europe now Canada )

    This is pure and utter NONSENSE; in my world there is NO colour!

    I was raised in Europe in the 40's,50's,and 60's and we were stunned then, as we are now, why in Gods name does the colour of ones skin make a difference in WHO we are?

    We are all people, plain and simple and does'nt your consitution say something about " EQUAL" ?


    January 9, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. Ida W.

    I am black. Give me a break. I am not offended. He spoke the truth. Some Blacks do make a difference based on complexiion and obviously Mr. Reid is close enough to some black person who shared that information with him. Unfortunately, there is a black dialect that is sometimes unattractive. At least he was honest. You should hear what some blacks say about whites. I wish everyone would quit being fake and have a discussion about race. I continue to support Reid and Obama.

    January 9, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  13. jordan

    Whats the big deal? African-Americans do, for the most park, have a different dialect than white Americans. Are we going to deny that? C'mawn maeen

    January 9, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  14. Mike

    Lets see how his buddies treat him on this, Had this been a republican he would have been crucified by the dems!

    Its time for him and is good buddy, the plastic surgery Queen Palosi to both go on to the big political grave yard in th sky!

    January 9, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. Colin

    hey, at least he said "Negro" instead of something else. he's an old, rich, white guy from the United States: it could've been a lot worse. also, let's not ignore the FACT that there are deficiencies in our "Education System" that help to create the dialects that we ALL know DO exist in most of the lower income areas of this country, be they of African, European, or any other ancestry. Maybe if we invested more tax money in our schools instead of our weapons...

    January 9, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. Unbelievable

    ".....a poor choice of words" ???????
    Are there BETTER words to say this?

    I believe, until ALL politicians who were alive and/or in politics in the 60's, in the height of the civil rights movement – we will unfortunately have this type of person and these types of comments running the country.
    Can anyone say/remember Strom Thurmond/William Rehnquist?
    Ignorance and idiocy often go hand in hand. This type of person embasses me to be an American. People around the world read/see these comments and realize just how backwardsand stupid we still are in the USA. We are to the world, just a bunch of stupid rednecks when they see this kind of thing.
    Unbelievable!! Truly unbelievable.

    January 9, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  17. Bob R., Lanham,

    Your Honor, Mr. Reid, I forgive you. My money says so will President Obama. I am a age-70 so-called "white" guy originally from The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. However, I believe my grandmother whose maden name was Kinicom was a native American Indian.

    January 9, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  18. just saying

    Reid's done anyway but maybe now people will understand that he's not very bright.

    January 9, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  19. Henry

    Is Reid a racist?

    January 9, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. ringo

    Ok folks, answer me this:

    If Obama had a southern accent, a saxophone, and the middle name Jefferson, would he ever have been elected?

    January 9, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  21. Richard L Peterson

    It is to bad that politicians have to be so careful to be politically
    correct in everything they utter even if what they say is non-contra-
    versal except to the Republicans.
    I could see nothing wrong with the remark.

    January 9, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  22. whowillstand

    i am not shocked, others still has this racists view.How can you get over racism when it is always thrown in your face. But white society do what they want and then tell people to get over it. and the favorite line is blacks use the race card, while they use the language of this idiot all the time.last thing, race don't determine your qualification to be a leader.black people stand up and be count for your rights.

    January 9, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  23. Chris

    I am completely tired of this sort of thing. The man made a remark that is an opinion that not only was correct, but has been born out. The goal is not be color blind in this country; it is impossible. The reason we say color blind is becuae we just want everyone to act, think, and behave white. White is the default color of this nation and Reid's remarks were right on. Anyone who wants to deny a "negro dialect" must then also deny the idea of a southern dialect or New York dialect or western dialect. the simple fact of the matter is that there are many differing cultures in this country and to try and deny that is to take away what makes us great, and also to set us back even further in reaching a truly tolerant country. The goal is not for everything to be like white America, it for everyone to be comfortable with their own culture as well as the cultures of others. Only then will we all get along.

    January 9, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  24. RobK

    It is so funny when people, who complain about the world being too politically correct, jump all over someone for such innocuous remarks. It is so politically motivated.

    January 9, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  25. Denna

    Senator Reid may have used a 'poor choice of words', but he didn't lie. I don't believe that President Obama would be our president without his white heritage. He is an intelligent, the best president we've had in a long time, but he had to convince white America that he could rule this country. To white America, too many of us anyway, being white is the only qualification. Had George Bush not made such a mess of this country, President Obama would never have been elected. Thank God he was.

    January 9, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13