Most Newspapers Skip Reid's Asian Gaffe; WashPost Pleads He's 'Almost Built Up a Gaffe Immunity'

Scott Whitlock noted earlier today that CBS and NBC skipped over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bad jokes about Asians (you’re not really the smartest, I can’t keep my Wongs straight). Additional Nexis transcript searches for “Harry Reid” and “Asian” show no mention on NPR, the PBS NewsHour, and even CNN and MSNBC (at least the transcripts they send to Nexis).

But what about newspapers? Surely, the “every “ reported this? No. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today skipped over it, too. The Washington Post covered it, but Post political reporter Aaron Blake strangely argued that Reid is so gaffe-prone he’s “almost built up a gaffe immunity”:

But Reid has also made a career out of saying such odd things -- so much so that few tend to notice stuff like this. He's like Joe Biden; he's almost built up a gaffe immunity by committing so many small-ish gaffes.

It's hard to argue Reid (and Biden, for that matter) doesn't pay a price -- given his unpopularity back home and nationally -- but he has yet to ruin his career.

Blake then listed the worst “gaffes,” like Reid shamelessly claiming Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes. That’s not a “gaffe.” That’s just lying. That was like claiming Obama was born in Kenya.

The Associated Press gave the Reid story a little 321-word blip by Michelle Rindels. In the story, no one outraged by Reid was quoted. Instead, Rindels went on defense: “Both comments were met with laughter from the crowd of about 150 people.” She and let the Asian group hosting Reid dismiss it as some sort of meaningless Republican tracker prank:

Asian Chamber of Commerce Director James Yu said Reid has been a longtime friend of the group, which was established in 1986 to promote political, social and economic parity for Nevada's Asian Pacific American entrepreneurs, according to its website. Yu said he hadn't heard any complaints from attendees about the Senator's comments.


"Someone is making an issue out of a nonissue," he told The Associated Press.

Yu said a young man with a camera had shown up and was told not to videotape the event, and he assured chamber leaders that he was just taking still shots. Yu said the young man would be turned away if he shows up again.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal also channeled a Reid defender in Terry Wong, who insisted he wasn’t upset with the Wong jokes:

Wong said Friday he wasn’t offended by Reid’s jokes and nobody approached him to say they were upset either.

“I was there front and center when he made the Wong joke, but it didn’t offend me,” he said in an interview. “Not one person came up to me and complained. They weren’t malicious jokes.”

He said he’s heard a version of the too-many-Wongs joke “all of my life.”

As for the stereotype that Asians are brighter than other people, Wong said he understood the point Reid was making.

“Of course we’re not smarter,” Wong said. “But we work hard and put a lot of effort into what we’re doing. We work hard, we study hard. We’re the first ones in the library and the last ones out. I think it’s a compliment to us.”

Wong said he has known Reid about 20 years and “he’s always been supportive of the Asian community.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis