Reid speaks on "Negro" comment

Majority leader says he's "very proud" he was "one of the first" to suggest Obama run for president

By Alex Koppelman
Published January 11, 2010 9:29PM (EST)

He's already apologized for his comments about President Obama's race, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had some more damage control to do on Monday. So, in a press conference from Nevada that was seen on national television, that's what he did, speaking in public about the remarks for the first time.

It was, to put it mildly, something of an awkward spectacle. Reid was just quoted as describing Obama as "light-skinned" and praising him for having "no Negro dialect, unless he want[s] to have one." And Monday, at the press conference, he was trying to fix that apparently self-inflicted wound by saying, "First of all, I am very proud that [I was] if not the first, one of the first people to suggest that Barack Obama run for president. I'm very happy about that."

Reid also spent some time name-dropping prominent people of color whom, he says, have expressed their support.

"My heart has been warmed as to the response I've gotten around the country," he said. "Whether [NAACP chairman] Julian Bond, whether it's as a call I got coming to the facility here today from the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder. In effect, he said, 'I've known you for a long time. Anything I can do, anyone you want me to talk to, I'll be happy to do that.' ...

I had a call last night -- it was late. I was surprised he was up this late -- from [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar. And he said, 'Harry, you make sure you tell everybody that you have done more for diversity in the United States Senate than all the rest of the people put together.'"

Even despite the support from those he named, and other Democrats as well, it's pretty clear the majority leader -- who was already facing the potential of a tough reelection campaign this year -- wants to move on, and quickly. He closed the press conference by saying, "I'm not going to dwell on this anymore. It's in the book. I've made all the statements I'm going to."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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