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. joe c

    HERE WE GO!! Are you all listening to these Moronic Liberals here?

    Is it NOT Hilarious – Is ti NOT "NO BIG DEA:L" –> WHEN it is a LIBERAL making the RACIAL SLurr??

    Look up Hypocrite on the dictionary and it will say "Liberal"...

    P.S. THANK GOD this Moron Senator is COOKED & DONE!!
    Unfortunately the same Moron that has enginnered this "illegal" Health Care program

    SEE if the Liberal network CNN posts this ??

    January 9, 2010 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  2. Kapechi

    GET A LIFE, will you? There is such a thing as "Negro dialect" whatever you call it – Ebonics, Southern Drawl, whatever. Its not an insult, but it is a fact of life. NO ONE would ever vote for a black president with that dialect. Reid was right NObama speaks like a professional and he IS light skinned. Since the politically correct thing in the last election was to run women and blacks, the black won, but at least America had their choice between the politically correct options. Now that that junk is over and we see the world didn't collapse (unless you count economics) perhaps America can get back to electing the BEST PERSON regardless of gender or color. They made a big deal about the first "black" everything in this country only to find that there are plenty of black people who can succeed IF they want to. That's America. To have Whiteman Reid cowtow to NObama because of NObama's silly little feelings is a disgrace to the entire political system and accomplishes nothing but emphasizing once again that Negroes exist and are somehow "different" than others. I thought this nonsense was over but apparently NObama wants to keep it alive along with his exaggerated ego. Shame on you Reid for succombing to political pressure. Good thing it happened on the weekend so we can get back to real life Monday

    January 9, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  3. Debby

    Hey isn't there a song "JIVE TALKIN" and guess what its sung by NEGRO's. Reid should apologize for alot of things but not this. Obama does talk jive with with an all black audience as I have heard him do it. When he is with a mixed bag of races his dialect is normal.

    January 9, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  4. silenceisgolden

    How many times can these racist Republicans get away with this behavior. This is why Democrats and AFRICAN AMERICANS are bonded so tightly, the racist Republicans.

    January 9, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  5. Mitch

    uh...was he not entirely correct? some older people still use terms that are dated. 'negro' used to be accepted in american vernacular. if anything the man is showing his age.

    January 9, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  6. Watchdog

    Hmmm.....Dodd doesn't run for re-election....Dorgan doesn't run for re-election.....This story pops up......Do you think the Democraps are trying to sandbag ol' Harry?.....Have you seen the poll numbers in Nevada....

    January 9, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  7. Ron - St. Louis

    Just the icing on the cake democrats needs to finally get rid of Reid and put someone with some sensibility into the leadership posiiton. If only Nancy could be tied down to one stupid statement then the democrats might continue their successful roll in the mid-term elections.

    January 9, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  8. dallas alphonso


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

    I don't see anything in here about minorities being upset about what was side, I think this is one of your lil issues and your comments said more about than anyone else. Whites and Blacks etc say lots little negatives things about each other when they are in their own comfort zone. By the way ithe "black dialect " use be called Jive no it's ebonics, lol! But it is an inner city dialect, not a black. whites poor inner city areas speak that way well!

    January 9, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  9. Mr Joshua

    LOL! Amazing how you can possibly defend these remarks. It they were made by a Republican that person would have been thrown out by now. Not even your favorite nemesis Rush Limbaugh said anything CLOSE to this. Hypocrites. Try being even handed for a change.

    January 9, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  10. GGinBham

    Why am I not surprised that the Democrats here are defending Reid and trying to turn it back on the Republicans? In their eyes the Democrats can do no wrong and the Republicans can do no right.

    Whenever the someone in the current administration does something wrong, they say "What's the big deal? Bush/Cheney/Lott/etc did such and such." They seem to to think that a second wrong by a Democrat is justified because of the first wrong committed by a Republican.

    January 9, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. Milo in Atlanta

    Reid said being light skinned and speaking like a Midwesterner helped Obama win. In other words, it would have been harder for a candidate with darker skin and a more urban dialect to be elected president. If racism still exists in America, then Reid's statement is correct. If racism does not exist, then Reid's statement is false. Which do you believe?

    January 9, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  12. Peter s

    I'm a proud negroid with a sexy accent!!

    January 9, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |

    HEY AMERICA!!!!!

    There are a lot of people like Harry Reid in powerful positions in American government. Particulary in the federal judiciary in Chicago. I am a black American; retired Naval Officer ("USNA – 75"); and I have been a life-long member of the Republican Party. I have actively fought hatred, discrimination and racism in America for the past thirty-eight years. There has really been no progress. The only hope is that all the old racist will soon or later die off. What Mr. Reid did is as racially offensive as the black commentator on Fox who brags about being beaten up as a kid for "talking white." What's talking white?

    I thank you Mr. Reid for showing your true colors! God Bless America!

    Lamar C. Chapman III
    Solo Fides (Only by Faith)
    Crown-of-Life Recipient 10-24-2004

    January 9, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  14. Jeff

    Just another powerful person that says a joke no one else would go near.

    but apologizing for it is something not a lot of people in such position don't do, especially when they get away with it all the time.

    and let's here what other insensitive remarks have been made be members of our political elite.

    January 9, 2010 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  15. arch

    He can say he is sorry as many times as he likes, but the truth of the matter is, once said, then it is too late to retract. I am always amazed at the people in d.c.. They never speak the truth about how they feel about another. They just keep saying these stupid things like, my distinguished friend who called me some bad names, is a very good friend of mine and we are going out to dinner next week! They can't tell the truth, which is, I hate that bum. He is a two bit piece of crap and what he said just shows you how much of a slime he really is!! To tell the truth is against the rules. They don't want to look like they are regular people. Because they think they are much better than the rest of us. Like never crying because someone dies, etc. How stupid. They are all a bunch of losers whose time in office is limited because of their stupidity in dealing with affairs of the people. It is a shame we can not vote them out in mid term!

    January 9, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  16. valwayne

    The amount of deeply ingrained inate racism within the Democratic party is astounding, and yet these people play the race against the Republicans without a thought. If a Republican said what Reid said his career would be over. If you're a Democrats racism is just unfortunate to be quickly forgotten!

    January 9, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  17. Bob of Lompoc

    I disagree completely with Harry Reid and anyone else who entertains such a stupid theory about why America accepted Mr. Obama as a valid Presidential Candidate.

    President Obama was never part of a family that was an American Slave! White people had no guilt issue to deal with. Therefore, they do not FEAR him. He has no reason to "get revenge". No other black male/female on the political horizon is situated like President Obama. He is a special case.

    Wake up!

    January 9, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  18. CW

    It was finally dawn on me why you radicals spew so much hate on Sarah Palin; it's your sickening Letterman way of imagining that you're raping her. Your shrink might be able to tell you so, pervs.

    January 9, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  19. CW

    That's the radical left's way of looking at race; and they call conservatives "racists." Lefties and "racial equality" was always a joke.

    January 9, 2010 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  20. Willy Brown

    Harry knew that the white liberal guilt vote would put a "light skinned" AA in so they could run amuck in Congress with there new rubber stamp at the helm.

    January 9, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  21. ForThePeople

    "non-contraversal except to the Republicans." What?

    That's funny, because if a Republican made that comment, there would be hundreds of liberals jumping all over this story and submitting comments here. This has nothing to do with political correctness, the remarks were racist plain and simple. If they weren't, Reid wouldn't be apologing. Amazing how I don't see the hundreds of postings to this story from Democrats. Probably because more people have realized that he is just as greedy and cares nothing for the American people just like Pelosi!

    January 9, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  22. Marie Laveaux

    That's a good question, Ringo. My guess is perhaps, he would have been elected if he had a saxophone, the middle name of Jefferson, and a southern accent, it worked for Bill Clinton, the hippest President we've ever had. I just think it's really sad that we continue to use stereotypical thinking in this era of our social development. I know Sen. Reid meant no offense, but it can't feel good to be a black American to hear this. I mean, what we are saying the more black
    Americans resemble whites, the greater are their chances to succeed. Unfortunately, this is still true.

    January 9, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  23. Gerry NH

    He does not need to apologize for what he said. This is what he said. The next two word out of his mouth will be "I Mispoke". This is what poloticians say when they screw-up.

    January 9, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  24. whowillstand

    Now, I am tired of people with this black dialect. How about these country white people who say you'll come back now. Just the other day called a state agency the grammar, the draw and the wrong information was the worst thing I've seen. But black people got a dialect and their own language give me a break. why when white people come off offensive it's a mistake. Well one to many. So white people are the only one's who can make a mistake. that wasn't a mistake,he just reveiled his heart. That's why those same black people going to help him lose his seat.

    January 9, 2010 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. will

    it's unfortunate that some comments are deemed offensive by the media and the public without the relevant minority group ever saying so. When did the African American community say they were offended by this? Someone just assumed that it was offensive, i don't think that it is at all? All i'm aware of is that non-minorities dislike the way the vast majority of African Americans talk. i only change the way i talk for a job interview, after probation i use it 24/7

    January 9, 2010 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
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