Embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has rebuffed repeated offers from his Democratic colleagues to mount a public campaign of support on his behalf, relying instead on African-American leaders in the administration, Congress and the civil rights community to defend him for making racially insensitive remarks about President Barack Obama in 2008.
According to Democratic aides, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have each offered to make statements, appear on cable news outlets or in the case of Schumer pledge to put together a letter of support from the entire 60-member Democratic caucus. Theyve all called him. Durbin told him, Keep your head up Harry, were all with you, one Democratic aide said. But Reid has largely declined to avail his colleagues of their support, arguing that public backing from black leaders is a more powerful message. Its much more important for [the Congressional Black Caucus] and the Rev. Al Sharpton to issue statements than Schumer or Durbin or Murray, the Democratic aide said.
Reid on Monday made his first public appearance since news broke Saturday of his 2008 comments describing Obama as a light skinned black without a Negro dialect to author Mark Halperin. During his remarks, delivered at a press conference in Apex, Nev., Reid focused on the support hes received from black leaders like Attorney General Eric Holder, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond. Reid apologized again for using the racially charged language and said my heart has been warmed by the response Ive gotten from around the country from black leaders.
But Reid did try to use the forum to put the controversy behind him.
Im not going to dwell on this anymore. Its in the book. Ive made all the statements Im going to, Reid said.
That, however, may be wishful thinking on Reids part the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been hammering Reid for his comments over the last several days and has launched an effort to tar other Democratic candidates with the controversy.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.