Congressman: Reid runs the Senate 'like a plantation'

Rep. Bill Cassidy labeled critical interpretation of his remarks as "false controversy."

Story highlights

  • Senate candidate Bill Cassidy criticizes Harry Reid for running "the Senate like a plantation."
  • Cassidy attacked from left and right for comment, which Reid called "very insensitive"
  • Cassidy's tea party opponent calls for an apology
Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican congressman running for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana, is taking heat from the left and the right after he said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "runs the Senate like a plantation."
Reid, asked Tuesday by reporters about the comment, demanded an apology.
"With all the things going on in America today, that's fairly insensitive," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. "That's really insensitive. Very insensitive. If there was ever a statement that deserves an apology, this is it big time. Has he been taking lessons from Donald Sterling? Where did he get this?"
Cassidy made the comments during an interview with an energy trade publication. He was trying to make the point that it doesn't matter whether Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu bucks her party on energy issues because Reid calls the shots. Landrieu has told voters she'll stand up to her party and the president on energy issues.
Senate Democrats' campaign arm immediately tried to capitalize, firing off several emails to supporters about Cassidy's comments. His challenger on the right, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness jumped on his opponent's remarks shortly after they appeared on Tuesday in Energy and Environment Daily.
"Congressman Cassidy may not realize this but the language he used included a term that is incredibly offensive to many Americans and he should immediately apologize," Maness said in a statement. "It's this type of over-the-top, out-of-bounds ignorance that drives so many people away from the Republican Party. We need to be better than that."
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky piled on more criticism and called Cassidy's comments "incredibly offensive."
"Bill Cassidy's assertion that the Senate is run like a plantation and that as a congressman he doesn't want to be kicked around like a slave is incredibly offensive and he should apologize," Barasky said.
But Cassidy showed no signs of apologizing and slammed that interpretation of his remarks as "false controversy."
"I wish there was as much offense taken by Harry Reid running the Senate dictatorially, not allowing any votes which he does not personally approve of and the result of which he does not endorse," Cassidy said in a statement to the Washington Post.
Cassidy, Maness and Landrieu will face off for the Louisiana Senate seat Nov. 4 in an open primary election.
It should be noted that Cassidy is not the first, nor the most prominent, politician to use the plantation analogy to characterize congressional leadership.
Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton charged Republican leaders in 2006 of running the House "like a plantation" during a speech in front of a largely black audience at a Harlem church. Like Cassidy, a Clinton spokesman also defended her remarks.
And then Rep.-Newt Gingrich also called out Democrats with the same analogy in 1994 shorty before become House Speaker, saying Democrats "think it's their job to run the plantation" and that he's "willing to lead the slave rebellion."
But Cassidy's tea party-backed challenger Maness is still calling for an apology.
"We all make mistakes and when we do, we should have the fortitude to own up to them," Maness said.