WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid blasted his opponent Sharron Angle in a televised interview Thursday, defending his efforts to fight the recession and declaring, "I’ve never had to prove my manhood to anyone."
Since last week’s Senate debate in which he was criticized for missing opportunities against his Republican challenger, Reid has taken on a more assertive persona. During a 10-minute interview in Henderson with MSNBC host Ed Schultz, Reid mixed attacks on Angle with a defense of his performance during the state’s economic downturn.
Schultz, a liberal commentator whose questions to the Nevada Democrat were mostly friendly, said he ran into Angle at McCarran International Airport and when he asked her to describe Reid in a word, she said, "Man up."
In response, Reid said, "People in Nevada know me. From the street to the ring to the Senate chambers, I’ve never had to prove my manhood to anyone."
Reid charged that Angle, a Tea Party favorite, "is trying to create a Republican Party that Republicans can’t recognize," and that "basically every Republican leader in the state has endorsed me."
Angle, he said, "is extreme, dangerous and an embarrassment to Nevada."
A spokesman for Angle said Reid’s remarks were "just more ramblings of a desperate man throwing around wild accusations days away from his defeat."
"The polls and early voting are turning against Senator Reid, and Harry is now a dead man walking, politically," spokesman Jarrod Agen said.
Republicans focused on a part of the interview in which they charged Reid appeared either to misspeak or to overstate his role in responding to the economic crisis.
Reid told Schultz that Nevada had enjoyed boom times, so when the economy sunk, "we had farther to fall than any other state."
"And we have fallen very hard," he said. "So people have been hurting. And I understand that. And it doesn’t give them comfort or solace for me to tell them, you know, but for me, we’d be in a worldwide depression."
"For Harry Reid to take credit for saving the world, yet take zero responsibility for Nevada’s serious economic problems, is either the height of ignorance or arrogance, or most likely, a combination of both," said Brian Walsh, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Reid stuck by his remark.
His campaign noted that the Senate majority leader had maneuvered the $787 billion economic stimulus bill to passage in February 2009.
"Most business groups and respected economists believe we were on the brink of a worldwide downturn that would have materialized had we not passed the stimulus," his spokesman Kelly Steele said.
The interview took place the afternoon before President Barack Obama’s scheduled arrival in Las Vegas today for a rally at Orr Middle School Park and a private fundraiser for Reid.
During the MSNBC interview, Reid moved to counter Angle’s charges in recent commercials that he lives a lavish lifestyle as a resident of the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C.
He said the condo is a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor — hardly a penthouse suite. Reid, whose salary as Senate majority leader is $193,400, bought the condo for $750,000 in 2001, and it is now valued at $1 million.
Reid said he thinks Nevadans understand he has worked to cushion the recession.
He said that he has saved jobs and that "there’s almost $2 billion worth of projects with renewable energy in Nevada" as a result of the stimulus bill."
"I think Nevada voters have gotten it," Reid said. "As I said, I’m comfortable where I am today."
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.