Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) apologized on Friday for insensitive remarks he made while speaking in front of the Asian Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas. The Asian Pacific American Advocates condemned his comments as “racist and disgusting.”
“My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize,” Reid said in a statement. “Sometimes I say the wrong thing.”
Reid appeared in front of the Asian Chamber of Commerce on behalf of Lucy Flores, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. During his speech, Reid made a series of jokes about the state’s Asian population.
“The Asian population is so productive. I don’t think you’re smarter than everybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us that you are,” Reid said. Later, while being introduced to the event’s attendees, Reid said “one problem that I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”
America Rising, a conservative group, posted a video of Reid’s comments to its website on Thursday. Soon after, the Asian Pacific American Advocates, an activist group, issued a harsh criticism of Reid's behavior.
“Senator Reid’s comments are offensive and racist to Asian Pacific Americans. He falsely assumes that our communities continue to perpetuate the model minority stereotype, when we have been actively working to highlight the vast socioeconomic disparities within our communities,” the group said in a statement, according to ABC News. “Additionally, the Senator’s comment about keeping his Wongs straight is, simply put, racist and disgusting. It implies that Asian Pacific Americans are identical, monolithic, and interchangeable and devalues our individual identities, cultures, and heritage."
Reid has a history of making insensitive remarks. In 2010, the senator was forced to apologize after he was quoted in John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book “Game Change” as referring to Barack Obama as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” the Los Angeles Times notes.