US Senator Harry Reid apologises over Asian jokes made at lunch in Las Vegas

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 August, 2014, 6:20am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 August, 2014, 6:20am


US Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid apologised for jokes he made about Asians during a lunch for business leaders in Las Vegas last week.

The senator was addressing the city's Asian Chamber of Commerce on Thursday when he told the audience: "I don't think you're smarter than anybody else, but you've convinced a lot of us you are."

When another man was summoned to the podium, he grabbed the microphone and quipped: "One problem I've had today is keeping my Wongs straight."

Both comments were met with laughter from the crowd of about 150 business representatives.

The incident was captured on video by a tracker, posted on YouTube and distributed to reporters by America Rising, a Republican opposition research firm.

"My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologise. Sometimes I say the wrong thing," Reid said on Friday.

Asian Chamber of Commerce director James Yu said Reid had been a long-time friend of the group, which was established in 1986 to promote political, social and economic parity for Nevada's Asia-Pacific American entrepreneurs, according to its website. Yu said he hadn't heard any complaints from those attending about the senator's comments.

"Someone is making an issue out of a non-issue," he said.

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 showed up again.

The chamber's lunch brought a separate disappointment for Reid - the group announced its endorsement of Republican Mark Hutchison for lieutenant governor. Reid has been championing Democratic state lawmaker Lucy Flores in the race, which is the highest-profile contest in Nevada's midterm elections.