Reid on 'ethnic jokes'


Mere hours after Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., apologized following a report stating he made remarks referring to President Barack Obama as "light skinned" and speaking favorably of Obama's lack of "Negro dialect", the National Republican Senatorial Committee dredged up a 2002 article from the Associated Press that quoted Reid and other Nevada politicians talking about racially charged comments that led to the political downfall of Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. Lott had said he would have supported segregationist Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign.

The article quotes Reid saying: "You play how you practice. ... 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."

The article also quotes Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and former Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., who is now governor of Nevada, responding to the racially controversial remarks from Lott.

Ensign had no comment on Reid's Obama remark and Berkley is traveling out of the country. Here's the clipping Republicans sent:

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

December 20, 2002, Friday, BC cycle

Nevada lawmakers not surprised by Lott resignation

DATELINE: LAS VEGAS

Sen. Harry Reid said Republican Senate leader Trent Lott's decision to relinquish his post Friday came as no surprise.

"He had no alternative," the Nevada Democrat and Senate minority leader said. "Senator Lott dug himself a hole and he didn't dig it all in one setting. He dug it over the years. And he couldn't figure out a way to get out of it."

Reid, who has called colleagues in a bid to win his party's Senate leadership post should Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., resign it seek the presidency, said he had no preference for a replacement for Lott.

Lott's resignation Friday culminated a controversy over his racially insensitive comments at Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party.

Lott said that Mississippians were proud to have voted for Thurmond in 1948 on the pro-segregationist Dixiecrat ticket.

Asked if the episode would serve as a warning to weigh his own words carefully, Reid said: "You play how you practice."

"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."

Nevada's other Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Shelley Berkley, said the lesson behind Lott's resignation was "clear and positive."

"The political system and the American public will not tolerate, in the 21st century, the backward viewpoint reflected by the senator's remarks."

Nevada's Republicans were less blunt.

Rep. Jim Gibbons, who had called for Lott to step down from the post, praised Friday's decision.

"Senator Lott did the right thing for his party, for the Senate, for the nation," the four-term Republican said. "He stepped down with great grace."

Sen. John Ensign said Lott's comments had opened what he called "a national dialogue on race relations." Ensign had argued in a radio interview Thursday that it would be better for Democrats and blacks if Lott remained in the post.

"Now it is time for us as Americans to learn from this incident, to heal from it, and to move forward," Ensign said in a statement Friday.