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September 2, 2014

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Michael Steele: Remarks hurt image of Harry Reid, Nevada

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KVBC Channel 3

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, speaking to Sun columnist Jon Ralston, called Sen. Harry Reid’s comments “ignorant.”

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Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, was in town this week and again condemned Sen. Harry Reid for racially insensitive remarks in which he claimed to believe President Barack Obama could be elected because he’s a “light-skinned” black man without A “Negro dialect” except when he wants to use it.

Steele made his comments in an interview with Sun columnist Jon Ralston on his statewide interview show “Face to Face With Jon Ralston” on KVBC Channel 3, the local NBC affiliate.

“I don’t think it was racist. It was ignorant. It reflects poorly on him and the state of Nevada,” Steele said.

Over the weekend, Steele called on Reid to resign.

When Ralston asked him about Reid’s resigning, Steele offered up some electoral bravado: “From my standpoint it doesn’t matter either way because come November he will not be returning to the Senate.”

In 2002, Steele backed then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who had said America would be better off with the segregationist policies of 1948 presidential candidate Strom Thurmond.

When Ralston asked him about the inconsistency, Steele offered this response: “What I think is the standard has been set by the Democrats. They raised the situation with Lott to the point where it required his removal. If that’s the standard ... you should go out the door,” he said.

This is a slight distortion of the Lott episode.

Democrats had no power to remove Lott as majority leader because they were the minority party. Lott was replaced by then-Sen. Bill Frist as majority leader in what was widely viewed as a White House coup engineered by Bush administration aide Karl Rove.

“Don’t tell me an apology is not enough for a Republican but it is enough for a Democrat,” Steele said.

Steele also criticized Reid for comparing the drive for universal health care to the abolition of slavery during Senate remarks last year.

Steele’s tenure as chairman of his party has been marked by infighting, weak fundraising, high spending and a series of embarrassing gaffes, most recently when he used the racially insensitive term “honest injun” while promoting his new book on Fox News.

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