Senator sorry for 'light skin' Obama remark
Gaffes revealed in a new behind-the-scenes book
The top Democrat in the US Senate apologised last night for saying Barack Obama's electoral chances had been improved because he was "light skinned" and spoke "with no Negro dialect".
The remark, by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, was reported in a new book on the 2008 presidential campaign.
He quickly telephoned America's first black president, as well as several black colleagues in Congress, to limit the damage.
His gaffe is one of many behind-the-scenes claims in the book, none of which have yet been denied.
According to advance excerpts, 'Game Change', which is due to be published tomorrow, throws new light on the battle for the Democratic nomination and could prove especially embarrassing for Bill Clinton.
It alleges that while trying to persuade the late Edward Kennedy to endorse his wife's presidential bid, the former president said that just a few years ago Mr Obama would have been serving them coffee. Kennedy later endorsed Mr Obama, a pivotal moment in the campaign.
However, with Mr Reid facing an uphill struggle in November's midterm elections, in a state with diverse racial groups, it is his blunder that could prove most costly.
According to the book: "He [Reid] was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one', as he later put it privately."
Mr Reid said in a statement: "I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologise for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans."
Mr Obama readily accepted the apology.
"I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed," he said.
The volume, by Mark Halperin of 'Time' magazine and 'New York Magazine' writer John Heilemann, is based on 300 mostly anonymous one-on-one interviews.
It claims that Mrs Clinton had a "war room within a war room" to deal with the issue of Bill's alleged womanising, and that aides were convinced in 2006 that he was having a long-standing affair.
Vice-President Joe Biden is portrayed as a major irritant to Mr Obama.
After a string of Biden gaffes, culminating in the assertion that Mr Obama would face an international crisis within six months, the presidential candidate reportedly asked his advisers: "How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?"
Aides to Senator John McCain conceded that the vetting of Sarah Palin as vice-presidential candidate was "crashed in a matter of 40 hours".
Members of the McCain team also reportedly confronted his wife, Cindy, over hearsay that she was having or had had an extra-marital affair. (© Daily Telegraph, London)