WASHINGTON (AP) — Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, defended Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday over racial remarks the senator made about Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Holder told The Associated Press that Reid is a good man, and as Holder put it: “I don’t think that there is a prejudiced bone in his body.”
Reid apologized to Obama and a handful of black political leaders after a new book reported he was favorably impressed by Obama during the campaign and, in a private conversation, described the Illinois senator as a light-skinned African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
Holder told The AP that the remark “is unfortunate but I don’t think that there is a prejudiced bone in his body.”
The attorney general quickly added that he thought the remark was unfortunate “in the sense that it’s created this controversy and raised questions about a man I don’t have any doubts about myself.”
Holder said he has worked with the Nevada Democrat for a number of years, and got to know him well during the 2008 campaign and the successful effort in 2009 to pass an updated hate crimes law. Reid also helped get Holder confirmed to his job as attorney general.
“I’m sure he’ll serve in his leadership position for many months and years to come and I look forward to working with him,” Holder said.
The public defense from the attorney general came as Republicans have called for Reid to resign his powerful position, and prompted renewed worry among Democrats that Reid might not win re-election this year.
“He’s a good man who has done an awful lot in his leadership position to advance the rights of people of color in this country, and he’s a good guy who I admire a great deal,” Holder said.
Asked if Reid should do or say something more to settle the issue, the attorney general echoed the president’s comments over the weekend, saying that since Obama has accepted Reid’s apology, the matter should be closed.
Holder is not a stranger to controversy over remarks about race. Last year, he gave a speech in which he said the United States was a “nation of cowards” on racial issues because people are too often afraid to have honest discussions about the subject.