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CBS's Smith: Harry Reid 'Very Soberly' Compared GOP to Slavery Supporters

While interviewing Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith referred to recent comments by Senator Harry Reid: "[He] said Republicans are on the wrong side of history when it comes to this health care bill and very soberly...compared those who opposed health care to those who opposed civil rights legislation....How would you respond to that?"

Steele fired back: "Well, you know, it was not a sober moment for Harry Reid at all. It was an ignorant moment for Harry Reid." Steele continued: " I'm kind of sick and tired of, you know, the Left and Democrats in this country, when they get into trouble and don't get their way...they play that race card, that slavery card, that civil rights card." Smith didn't even mention Reid's further comparison of Republicans to those who resisted ending slavery.

Steele called on Reid to apologize: "...it was an ignorant comment. Harry needs to go to the well of the Senate, take it back, and apologize for offending the sensibilities of the American people on something so important."

During the 10AM ET hour on MSNBC on Tuesday, anchor Contessa Brewer reported on Steele's Early Show appearance: "Head of the RNC, Michael Steele, stepping up pressure on Senator Harry Reid. He wants Reid to apologize for comparing Republican opponents of health care reform to those who resisted an end to slavery." After playing back-to-back clips of Reid and Steele, Brewer added: "Reid's spokesman says Steele's remarks amount to feigned outrage."

On the Early Show, Smith waited until the last question to get Steele's reaction to Reid's controversial comments, the rest of the interview focused on President Obama's jobs plan. Smith began by asking: "What do you think of this idea, though, of using - because this T.A.R.P. money was used to bail out some of these bigger financial institutions, many of them are paying them off, paying them back with interest. What do you think of using that idea as a jobs stimulus?" Steele criticized the Obama administration for "just sort of jerking from one thing to the next with respect to the underlying issue that this administration came into office talking about it would solve....So, you know, another speech, you know, another summit."

Smith followed up: "What do you think the biggest obstacle is to job creation?" Steele argued: "Well, the biggest obstacle is what you see in this health care bill, quite frankly....I don't know how you're going to create incentives for small businesses on the one hand when you're putting regulatory burdens and tax burdens on them on the other."

Here is a full transcript of the interview:

7:09AM

HARRY SMITH: Joining us now is chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL STEELE: Hey, good morning. Hey look, tell Bill my pockets are empty, so I can't help him out there either, so.

SMITH: What do you think of this idea, though, of using - because this T.A.R.P. money was used to bail out some of these bigger financial institutions, many of them are paying them off, paying them back with interest. What do you think of using that idea as a jobs stimulus?

STEELE: Well, you know, I think it's fine if you're going to give it - give the $200 billion directly to small businesses and there are a number of ways in which that can happen. You know, but for me, the broader point is here we are in almost month 12 of this administration and we're just now beginning to have a serious conversation about job creation. And just sort of jerking from one thing to the next with respect to the underlying issue that this administration came into office talking about it would solve. And that is job creation, unemployment rates, and what to do with small businesses. So, you know, another speech, you know, another summit. This is not rocket science. I mean, the bottom line is that wealth generation in this country comes from small business owners. They employ close to 70% of the work - nation's workforce. So why aren't we focused on them in January as opposed to December?

SMITH: What do you-

STEELE: Maybe our unemployment situation would look a little bit different today.

SMITH: What do you think the biggest obstacle is to job creation?

STEELE: Well, the biggest obstacle is what you see in this health care bill, quite frankly. I mean, you're talking about the impact directly on small business owners through more regulation, more taxes, and other burdens that are embedded into this health care bill that's not being put out on the table. Small businesses - and this is why the Chamber [of Commerce] got in trouble, because they looked at the bill, they paid attention, saw the impact on its member, and they know the impact it's going to have on small businesses. And I don't know how you're going to create incentives for small businesses on the one hand when you're putting regulatory burdens and tax burdens on them on the other.

SMITH: Did you see this news, though, this morning that the public option may, in fact, be dead and that what the Democrats will really try to do is expand the reach of Medicare?

STEELE: Well, you know, I - here we go again. The public option was dead sometime over the summer and it came back like Frankenstein's monster and it's now dead again. And I think the reality of it is, look, you've got the liberals in Congress who've made it very clear, no public option, no vote. And so I don't see how - how they get through this process without the public option in there if the President wants this bill passed before the end of the year. Which we hope it doesn't happen.

SMITH: Very quickly, Harry Reid said Republicans are on the wrong side of history when it comes to this health care bill and very soberly yesterday he compared those who opposed health care to those who opposed civil rights legislation and other important acts throughout - throughout history. How would you respond to that?

STEELE: Well, you know, it was not a sober moment for Harry Reid at all. It was an ignorant moment for Harry Reid. In fact, you know, I'm kind of sick and tired of, you know, the Left and Democrats in this country, when they get into trouble and don't get their way, and their backs are up against the wall on legislation or whatever it is they're trying to do, they go to that card, they play that race card, that slavery card, that civil rights card. And this has nothing to do with - with health care. If you disagree - if you have a philosophical or political, or you know, business disagreement with this administration, or Harry Reid, on health care, it has nothing to do with the historic roots of slavery. So it was an ignorant comment. Harry needs to go to the well of the Senate, take it back and apologize for offending the sensibilities of the American people on something so important.

SMITH: Michael Steele, we thank you for your time this morning, sir.

STEELE: Alrighty.

SMITH: Alright, take care.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.