US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has apologised for jokes he made about Asians during a luncheon of business leaders in Las Vegas earlier this week.
Reid 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 people.
The incident was captured on video by a tracker, posted on YouTube and distributed to reporters by America Rising, a Republican opposition research firm.
Reid later issued a statement saying: “My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologise. Sometimes I say the wrong thing.”
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 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 shows up again.
The chamber’s luncheon brought a separate disappointment for Reid – the group announced its endorsement of Republican Mark Hutchison for lieutenant governor.
Reid has been championing Democratic state politician Lucy Flores in the race, which is the highest-profile contest in Nevada’s midterm elections.
Hutchison said he was grateful for support from leaders of Nevada’s Asian community, which comprises about eight per cent of the state’s population.