January 10th, 2010
02:16 PM ET
13 years ago

GOP senator demands Reid relinquish leadership post

Washington (CNN) –A senior Republican senator called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to step down as majority leader, following the revelation that the Nevada Democrat made racially insensitive remarks about Barack Obama during the presidential campaign.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the GOP's Senate campaign arm, called on Reid to vacate his position in a statement released Sunday.

"It's difficult to see this situation as anything other than a clear double standard on the part of Senate Democrats and others," Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement sent to CNN. "In 2002, Democrats expressed outrage at Senator Lott and called on him to step down as Leader. That same standard should be applied to Senator Reid and his embarrassing and racially insensitive statements; statements, I would add, that Senator Reid still has yet to clarify. As we await his explanation, Senator Reid should do the right thing, follow the example that he himself set in 2002, and step down as Majority Leader."

Reid has personally apologized to Obama and prominent African-American leaders for his remarks. The president released a statement Saturday, saying he accepted Reid's apology.

"Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today," Obama said in the statement released by the White House. "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."

Reid's comments about Obama appear in a new book, "Game Change," which is scheduled to be in bookstores Tuesday.

The authors quote Reid as saying privately that Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his "light-skinned" appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

"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,' " authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann say. "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.

CNN obtained a copy of the book Saturday from a Washington bookstore.

Cornyn's demand for Reid to step down was first reported by Politico.

- CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand contributed to this report.

Filed under: Harry Reid • John Cornyn • President Obama • Senate
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. crim

    As the old saying goes, what goes into the heart comes out of the mouth, eventually. My only thought is what about dark skinned African-Americans, and what about those that have lazy speech, even whites or anyone else. Are they less than good enough for Reid?

    The man's very petty, immature, and hypocritical.

    January 10, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  2. Cynthia in FL

    Way to stir up a tempest in a teapot, Republicans.

    The problem with Trent Lott was that he said - in 2002 - that if Strom Thurmond had been elected president, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years". Since Thurmond ran largely on a segregationist platform, Lott's comment came across as implying that he believed the country would have been better off had segregation had remained in place.

    Reid, on the other hand, was referring to Obama's chances with the electorate, not his own personal opinion. And he wasn't wrong. We all know that many people in this country did not vote for Obama because he's biracial, just as there were those who did not vote for Hilary Clinton because she's a woman. (Personally, I am anti-idiot, which is why I didn't vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin.)

    Reid's comments were not racist: He was not denigrating Obama or casting doubt on his ability due to his skin color. His comments may have been "racial", in that he was acknowledging that there is a racist element in our society and that race plays a role in elections (among other things), but honestly, that's just speaking the truth.

    January 10, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. shamgar50

    Is it just me, or does the GOP seem desperate for any issue to pounce on?

    January 10, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. jenn

    Oh please. Republicans have no business pointing fingers on race issues, especially when they are courting the Tea Party crazies, who are quite fond of racist images and rants. Moreover, Trent Lott stepped down because he wished that Strom Thurmond, a candidate who ran for president on a platform of *segregation*, had won that election. That's quite a bit different from using an antiquated term like "Negro." On the other hand, Reid is such a weak leader that I (a Democrat) would be happy to see him go.

    January 10, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. roy

    move on, it's not like these Republican fools ever thought the same thing. cornyn is a biggot as well!

    January 10, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  6. Francisco Cardenas

    Why doesn't Cornyn ask Ensign to resign? Politics as usual.

    January 10, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  7. Andrew

    Even though Reid's statements were a bit racist, the honest observation within in them is not. As Americans we rarely see the truth in the words.
    The problem is people like to hide behind the mistakes of others, yet honesty I wouldn't want my President talking like a idiot, OOPS wait that was BUSH.

    I find it almost hilarious that a Republican is demanding Reid step down.. it's almost laughable .. the irony tares such a whole in history. Are all GOP members suffering from Alzheimers?

    January 10, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. Mickey

    When will the GOP get it? You are not in any position to be demanding ANYTHING!

    Maybe, just maybe, if you played ball with all the others who are trying to get America back on keel, your suggestions would be heard. But until you are willing to work in a truly bi-partisan manner, zip it.

    The GOP has proven to be nothing but fearmongering bigots who take their lead from a drug addict circus performer known as Rush Limbaugh. You are obstructionists, nothing more.

    January 10, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. Get Serious

    The Republicans hatred for Senator Reid is obvious. Now the Republicans want to come out in defense of the President and the African American community. I say as a African American... John Cornyn we are not falling for the okie doke. Just like we didn't fall for it when you all apppointed Steele as the RNC chairman. We will not be bamboozled or hood winked by the Republican party. We know the Republican party consist of a bunch of racist old white men. If President Obama and other black leaders have accepted Reid's apology why is Cornyn concerned ? Cornyn compares apples to oranges. Lott spoke about segregation being acceptable and cosigned Strom Thurmond ignorant beliefs. I do believe that that Reid's comments were inappropriate, but true. President Obama's mixed hertiage i.e. light-skinned and his exceptional oratorical skills were acutally an asset to him in the presidential race.

    January 10, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  10. magella

    If Sen. Cornyn wants to address double standards, he should look no further than his own party. From the thinly veiled racism in the McCain-Palin campaign to the outright intolerance of the Tea Bagger rallies to the hypocrisy of blaming Obama for the countless problems he inherited from the Bush administration, the Republicans have no ground to stand on, AT ALL, on this issue. And anyway, isn't it the job of the offended (in this case, the president) to say whether they accept an apology or not? For the love of God.

    January 10, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  11. vernis robertson

    Who cares what the GOP thinks . Their so concern about political grand standing. Before the Gop say anything , they needs to clean their own house before they should respond to this . How many times Mitch McConnelly , John Banner Eric Canton called the Presiden the N- word behind close doors?

    January 10, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
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