Reid Apologizes for "Negro Dialect" Remark

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Last Updated 4:12 p.m. ET

CBS News political consultant Marc Ambinder got an early look at "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime" by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, and notes a passage that will cause Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid some serious heartburn and further erode his quest for reelection.

(Left: President Barack Obama with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at a fundraising event in Las Vegas last May.)

In a "private" conversation, Reid discussed candidate Barack Obama's racial profile. The authors wrote that Reid's "encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,' as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination."

Reid apologized today:

"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.

"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.

"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 important to the African American community."

The White House released a statement from Mr. Obama this afternoon saying that Reid had called the president and apologized.

"I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice, and I know what's in his heart," Mr. Obama said.

"As far as I am concerned, the book is closed."

A new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal found that more than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Reid. Among those polled, 52 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Reid, while 33 percent were favorable and 15 percent said they're neutral.

Reid, 70, made a statement that he is "absolutely running for re-election."

Brian Walsh, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement, "For those who hope to one day live in a color-blind nation, it appears Harry Reid is more than a few steps behind them."

"60 Minutes" will air a segment discussing "Game Change" with the authors and Steve Schmidt, John McCain's former top campaign strategist.

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The book officially goes on sale Tuesday.

Read more from Marc Ambinder's take on "Game Change."
  • Dan Farber On Twitter»

    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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