Furor over Harry Reid comments ‘makes no sense,’ Barack Obama says

Jon Ward Contributor
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President Obama on Monday said the uproar surrounding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s comments on race “makes absolutely no sense,” saying that the Nevadan’s remarks were an example of “inartful language.”

“He’s apologized, recognizing that he didn’t use appropriate language. But there was nothing mean-spirited in what he had to say,” Obama said, during an interview with TV One, a six-year old cable network aimed primarily at African-American viewers.

It was the second time the president has addressed Reid’s comments, which came to light Saturday and has dominated the news cycle since then. Unlike Obama’s short paper statement released hours after the remarks became public, Monday’s comments was the first time he talked expansively on the subject.

He was obviously frustrated to even be doing so, in another sign that the nation’s first African-American president views race more often as a distraction than anything else.

“The fact that we spend days on this instead of talking about the unemployment rate or talking about how we deal with critical issues like energy and health care is an indication of why I think people don’t understand what’s happening in Washington,” Obama said. “I guarantee you the average person — white or black — right now is less concerned about what Harry Reid said in a quote in a book a couple of years ago than they are about how we are going to move the country forward.”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Reid said Obama could win the election because he was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” The comment was first reported in a new book about the 2008 election, “Game Change,” by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.