Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he hopes Republicans who oppose the president do so "based on substance and not the fact that he's an African American."
The comment came during a wide-ranging interview Friday with Las Vegas-based National Public Radio affiliate KNPR, in which Reid, a Nevada Democrat, lamented Republican filibusters and claimed opponents do everything they can to make Obama fail.
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He recalled that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said during Obama's first term that his most important goal was ensuring Obama wasn't re-elected.
"Here we are seven months into his second term and nothing has changed," Reid said. "It's been obvious they are doing everything they can to make him fail. And I hope, I hope, and I say this seriously, it's based on substance and not the fact that he's an African American."
Reid's comments went unchallenged by the program's moderator, but not by Newsmax contributor and conservative African-American columnist Clarence V. McKee, who said there was no reason for Reid to raise the race issue during the interview.
“It’s been typical for the last 3½ years — Obama supporters, black and white — whenever he’s criticized the first thing they yell is ‘race or racism,’” said McKee, who held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as the Reagan presidential campaigns. “For the Senate majority leader to stoop that low and go into the racial gutter is disgusting.”
McKee blamed Reid’s comments and similar ones for the apparent deterioration of race relations since the election of President Obama in 2008.
“He’s just race baiting and the president should disavow it as should other Democrats, but they’re all part of a race-bait chorus,” according to McKee, citing a recent Wall Street Journal poll, which found that attitudes on race relations have plummeted under the president. “They’re doing more to hurt race relations than the Zimmerman verdict will ever do.”
He said Reid’s comments were tantamount to “liberal, elitist, racism.”
McConnell's office referred a request for comment to Sen. Tim Scott, a black Republican from South Carolina, who said Reid's remarks were offensive and asked for an apology.
In 2010, Reid apologized for comments he made about the president’s race during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Reid described then-Sen. Obama as “light skinned’’ and “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’’
In his apology, Reid attributed his private description of Obama to a “poor choice” of words.
“I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” he said at the time. “I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.’’
In his radio interview, Reid also criticized members of the tea party, comparing them to anarchists who helped spark World War I. He said that while modern anarchists don't resort to violence, they do not believe in government and rejoice in its troubles.
"They have the same philosophy as the early anarchists," he said. "They don't believe in government. Anytime anything bad happens to the government, that's a victory for them. It makes it very difficult to get things done."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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