Politics

Whether it’s Harry Reid, Trent Lott or Joe Biden, foot-in-mouth disease gets Washington talking

Alex Pappas Political Reporter

This week’s uproar over racially charged comments attributed to Sen. Harry Reid reminded The Daily Caller of other uncomfortable race-related flubs by Washington political types. Some highlights:

Trent Lott, Dec. 5, 2002

What he said:
“When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either,” Republican Lott said at a 100th birthday party for Thurmond.

The problem:
The segregationist Thurmond ran for president of the United States in 1948 as a Dixiecrat.

The reaction:
“He had no alternative. If you tell ethnic jokes in the backroom, it’s that much easier to say ethnic things publicly. I’ve always practiced how I play.”
— Sen. Harry Reid in a Dec. 20, 2002 Associated Press article, according to the Washington Examiner

“I know Trent Lott personally, and I know that this is not his intent. But it’s still unfortunate. And I think he needs to apologize a little bit more.”
— Then-Lt. Governor of Maryland Michael Steele quoted in the Washington Post, as reported by Politico

“It is not a small thing … for one of the half dozen most prominent political leaders in America to say that our problems are caused by integration and that we should have had a segregationist candidate. That is divisive and it is divisive along racial lines. That’s the definition of a racist comment.”
— Al Gore quoted on CNN on Dec. 10, 2002

Joe Biden, 2007

What he said:
Shortly after announcing his candidacy, then-Senator Joe Biden said in an interview — while discussing his rivals in the 2008 presidential election — that then-Senator Barack Obama was a promising candidate because he was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.”

The reaction
“I didn’t take Sen. Biden’s comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate.”
— Then-Sen. Barack Obama in a Feb. 9 2007 written statement, according to a CNN article

“‘He is a clean African-American’?” Limbaugh asked. “If Biden thinks that Obama is clean then he has to think that others are not clean. Does he mean that he knows that Jesse Jackson is not clean? Does he mean that he knows that Reverend Sharpton is not clean? … See, folks, this is the problem for the libs. Once they get off script they expose their idiocy, they expose their prejudice.”
— Rush Limbaugh as quoted by ABC news on Jan. 31, 2007

“I told him I take a bath every day.”
— Al Sharpton as quoted in the Washington Post on Jan. 31, 2007 of his conversation with Biden

Harry Reid incident, January 2010

What he said:
Reid was quoted as saying that Obama could win the presidency because he is “light-skinned” and didn’t have a “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

The reaction:

“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.”
— President Barack Obama in interview with TV One’s Roland Martin on Jan. 11

“There is this standard where Democrats feel they can say these things and apologize as long as it comes from one of their own and if it comes from somebody else, it’s racism.”
— RNC Chair Michael Steele on Fox News Sunday on Jan. 10

“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.”
— Sen. Harry Reid in a statement on Jan. 9

“That’s up to the voters of Nevada. I didn’t know those kind of words were still in American lexicon.”
— Sen. John McCain on Jan. 12 on NBC’s The Today Show when asked if Reid should step aside

“The point is he can get away with it, and others in the country couldn’t. I couldn’t get away with it. If I had said that I’d be toast.  There’s clearly a double standard here and the double standard benefits the people who I think are the genuine racists and bigots, and that’s the Democrats.”
— Rush Limbaugh on his radio show Jan. 11

“While there is no question that Senator Reid did not select the best word choice in this instance, these comments should not distract America from its continued focus on securing health care or creating jobs for its people.”
— Al Sharpton in a statement, reported by Politico, Jan. 9