NBC, CBS Skip Harry Reid's Questionable Asian Joke: It's Hard to Keep 'My Wongs Straight'

NBC and CBS have ignored a questionable joke about Asian Americans by Harry Reid on Thursday. Only Friday's World News highlighted the "foot-in-mouth" moment from the Senate Majority Leader. Speaking to the Asian Chamber of Commerce, Reid quipped, "One problem I've had today is keeping my Wongs straight." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Looking at the comment critically, anchor Diane Sawyer wondered, " So, what did he say, and what's the line between a joke and a racist remark?" 

Reporter Jeff Zeleny chided, "'Racist and disgusting' is what some are calling harry Reid's attempt at humor." Instead of covering the story, Nightly News and the Evening News on Friday made time for frivolous topics. NBC covered a blue lobster being caught in Maine. CBS highlighted a pink cookie being dropped from the menu at certain high schools.  

At the event on Thursday, Reid lectured the assembled Asians: "I don't think you're smarter than anybody else, but you've convinced a lot of us you are." 

ABCNews.com featured this response from the Asian Pacific American Advocates: 

“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." 

Unlike NBC and CBS, Zeleny highlighted just how gaffe-prone Reid is: 

ZELENY: Now, Reid's apologized's anyway, saying, "My comments were extremely poor in taste. Sometimes, I say the wrong thing." He's become well-practiced at saying he's sorry. Reid once predicted Barack Obama would be the first black president because he was "light-skinned" and had "no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one." And then there was this awkward moment –  

HARRY REID: In the summertime because of the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you can literally smell the tourists coming into the capitol. And that may be descriptive, but it is true.

A January 14, 2010 analysis by the Media Research Center examined just how the networks covered Reid's "Negro dialect" comment. Of the combined 37 stories in the first three days, 71 percent were supportive of the Democrat. Only 29 percent were negative. 

Reid has aggressively called on owner Dan Snyder to change the team name of the Washington Redskins, sneering that the word is "racist."  Regarding bigotry, in August of 2010, the Senator blurted, "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican." 

Given Reid's own insensitivity regarding race issues, one would think that NBC and CBS would cover the Democrat's apparent hypocrisy. 

On cable, Special Report, Red Eye and Imus in the Morning noticed the remarks about Asians. 

A transcript of the August 22 World News segment is below:  


6:37

DIANE SAWYER:  And back here at home, a kind of political tempest. A foot-in-mouth moment making headlines. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid apologizing tonight for remarks about Asian Americans. So, what did he say, and what's the line between a joke and a racist remark? ABC's Jeff Zeleny dives into the debate. 

JEFF ZELENY: "Racist and disgusting" is what some are calling harry Reid's attempt at humor, speaking to the Asian Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas. 

HARRY REID: The Asian population is so productive. I don't think you're smarter than anybody else, but you've convinced a lot of us you are. 

ZELENY: A questionable joke he now says he regrets. But it didn't stop there. 

REID: One problem that I've had today is keeping my Wongs straight. 

ZELENY: Today, we spoke to Terry Wong, who was on stage with Reid. 

TERRY WONG: It was a light-hearted joke I've heard all my life and it's not an insult.  

ZELENY: Now, Reid's apologized's anyway, saying, "My comments were extremely poor in taste. Sometimes, I say the wrong thing." He's become well-practiced at saying he's sorry. Reid once predicted Barack Obama would be the first black president because he was "light-skinned" and had "no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one." And then there was this awkward moment –  

REID: In the summertime, because of the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you can literally smell the tourists coming into the capitol. And that may be descriptive, but it is true. 

ZELENY: But tonight, it's the leader of the Senate who isn't laughing. Jeff Zeleny, ABC News, Los Angeles. 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org