WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate apologized on Saturday for comments he made about Barack Obama’s race during the 2008 presidential bid.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada described then-Sen. Barack Obama as “light skinned” and “with no Negro dialect.” Obama is the nation’s first African-American president.
“I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments,” Reid said in a statement released after the excerpts were reported on the Web site of The Atlantic.
“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 remained neutral during the bitter Democratic primary that became a marathon contest between Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Obama tapped as the United States’ top diplomat after the election.
Reid’s comments are included in a book set to be published on Monday. “Game Change” was written by Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin and New York magazine’s John Heilemann; the pair describe the book in interviews during Sunday’s “60 Minutes” on CBS.
Reid, facing a tough 2010 re-election bid, needs the White House’s help if he wants to keep his seat. Obama’s administration has dispatched officials on dozens of trip to buoy his bid and Obama has raised money for his campaign.
Recognizing the threat, Reid’s apologies also played to his home state: “Moreover, throughout my career, from efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry to opposing radical judges and promoting diversity in the Senate, I have worked hard to advance issues.”
Even before his ill-considered remarks, a new survey released Saturday by the Las Vegas Review Journal showed him continuing to earn poor polling numbers. In the poll, by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Reid trailed former state Republican party chairwoman Sue Lowden by a 10 percentage points, 50 percent to 40 percent, and also lagging behind two other opponents.
More than half of Nevadans had an unfavorable opinion of Reid. Just 33 percent of respondents held a favorable opinion.