U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy came under fire Tuesday for comparing the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate to a plantation.
Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican and the establishment GOP’s best hope to unseat U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, told the Environment & Energy Daily that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, “runs the Senate like a plantation.” Throughout the day, demands have come in for Cassidy to apologize for the remark.
Rob Maness, another Republican in the Louisiana Senate race, demanded that Cassidy “immediately apologize” for using a term “that is incredibly offensive to many Americans.”
Reid agreed, saying he wants an apology from Cassidy.
Reid asked if Cassidy has been taking lessons from a former NBA owner, Donald Sterling, who made racist remarks.
“With all the things going on in America today, that’s fairly insensitive. That’s really insensitive. Very insensitive. And if there were any statement that deserved an apology, this is it, big time. I mean, has he been taking lessons from Donald Sterling? Where did he get this?” Reid told reporters at his weekly Capitol news conference when asked about Cassidy’s comment, according to The Associated Press.
State Rep. Randal L. Gaines, a LaPlace Democrat who serves as the state party’s vice chairman of elected officials, also blasted Cassidy’s remarks as “insensitive” in a news release from the Louisiana Democratic Party and also called on Cassidy to apologize.
“To compare the U.S. Senate to one of the greatest atrocities in our nation’s history is not only offensive to every single person who is a descendant of a slave, but to every American with any decency,” Gaines said. “If a millionaire like Congressman Cassidy can’t understand why comparing himself to a slave is wrong, how will he be able to relate to the millions of Louisianians who don’t make close to the $200,000 a year he currently earns.”
Cassidy defends the remark. In a prepared statement, he says that Reid runs the Senate dictatorially by blocking votes he doesn’t want. Cassidy calls any other interpretation of his remarks, in his words, “a false controversy.”
His campaign and the Republican National Committee reminded media that Landrieu had not handed over a report of an attorney’s review of her air travel records. RNC Chairman Reince Preibus tweeted asking why the report hasn’t been released yet: “Has @SenLandrieu released an audit of her taxpayer-funded private flights yet?”
Republican party operatives reminded that Democrat Hillary Clinton, at the time a U.S. senator, came under fire in 2006 when she similarly compared the GOP-run U.S. House to a plantation. Republicans, at the time, demanded Clinton apologize, saying she “should be ashamed” of playing “the race card.”
Louisiana’s Senate race is the focus of national attention as one of the half-dozen or so seats vulnerable to a party turnover that would give the GOP a majority in the upper chamber as well as the U.S. House. The three-term Landrieu is a Democrat who is running in a state where every other official elected statewide is Republican.
In the E&E piece, Cassidy linked Landrieu with President Barack Obama, who lost Louisiana to the GOP candidates in 2008 and 2012, and Reid, a Democrat from Nevada.
“So instead of the world’s greatest deliberative body, it is his personal, sort of, ‘It goes if I say it does, if not it stops.’ Senator Landrieu’s first vote for him to be re-elected means that every other wish for a pro-oil and gas jobs bill is dead. Reid will never allow a pro-oil and gas jobs bill,” Cassidy was quoted as saying in explaining his “plantation” comment.
“It’s this type of over-the-top, out-of-bounds ignorance that drives so many people away from the Republican Party,” Maness, who is supported by the tea party wing of the GOP, said in a prepared statement. “We need to be better than that. We need to be the party of thoughtful ideas and common-sense reforms — not extreme rhetoric and ignorant comments. We all make mistakes and when we do, we should have the fortitude to own up to them.”
The election is Nov. 4, with a runoff on Dec. 6, if needed.