US Senate Majority leader Harry Reid criticized over "Negro" comments

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Senator Harry Reid
Image: United States Congress.

Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is US Senate Majority leader, is under a lot of criticism over comments he made during the 2008 United States presidential election, toward US President Barack Obama. The highlighted comment made by Reid was calling Obama a "light-skinned" black man "with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one." The remarks were released in a book co-written by Time magazine reporter Mark Halperin, and New York magazine reporter John Heileman.

Reid has since apologized for "using such a poor choice of words." President Obama quickly accepted the apology. Reid has been a partner with the Obama Administration on issues such as health care reform. Democratic Party chairman Tim Kaine told Meet the Press "the comments were unfortunate and they were insensitive", but "I think the case is closed because President Obama has spoken directly with the leader [Reid] and accepted his apology. [...] We're moving on."

Members of the Republican Party have called on Reid to resign over his comments. Party chairperson Michael Steele told Fox News Sunday "There is this standard where the Democrats feel that they can say these things and they can apologize when it ... comes from the mouths of their own. But if it comes from anyone else, it's racism,". Having appeared alongside Kaine, where the Democrat Party chairman stated the case was closed, Steele argued that there was a double standard, on the basis of then-Senator Obama calling in 2002 calling for Trent Lott, at that time the majority leader, to be ousted for supporting the views of Strom Thurmond, who stood as a segregationist Presidential candidate in 1948.

The book Game Change published today, also says that New York Senator Chuck Schumer encouraged Barack Obama to run in early 2006, even though he later endorsed his former colleague Hillary Clinton. Other revelations included that John McCain's aides were concerned about Sarah Palin's failure to understand basic facts prior to her ABC News interviews with Charles Gibson, including why North Korea and South Korea are separate countries.

Co-authors Halpern and Heileman have a history of vocal criticism of media coverage of the 2008 Presidential election. In late 2008, Daily Kos reporter Jed Lewison drew attention to comments by Halpern, on-stage with Heilmen, asserting the reportage was, "extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage"; he characterised election coverage as, "the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war". Halpern's centrepiece example was an analysis of New York Times profiles on the prospective First Ladies; overlooking earlier NYT coverage that reported on Obama's Caucasian ancestors being slave owners.


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