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Nevada scuffle -- Harry Reid vs. the Review-Journal

September 3, 2009 |  5:42 am

In some respects, Sen. Harry Reid’s summer vacation went well: The GOP’s top hope for ousting him bailed, and the Senate Majority Leader squeezed in some photo ops with former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

But the Nevada Democrat with the tanking favorability ratings can’t seem to make a trip home without a few verbal oopsies:

He described disruptive attendees at a healthcare town hall meeting as “evil-mongers.” 

He got into a kerfuffle with a potential Republican challenger over whether she supported mammograms

He reassured Nevadans that the “public option” was not “set up for people who are losers.” Sherm Frederick

But unlike the other slips, there’s a complex set of rivalries behind the biggest headline-grabber: Reid reportedly told his hometown paper’s advertising director:

“I hope you go out of business.”

Reid has a contentious relationship with the Review-Journal, whose libertarian-leaning opinion writers are no fans of him or President Obama.

So, the Reid folks say, when he made his comment late last month before a Chamber of Commerce lunch, he was joking.

In fact, Reid said at the event that he hoped the R-J (as it's often called locally) remained successful – because of its joint-operating agreement with the more Reid-friendly Las Vegas Sun. The crowd laughed, knowingly.

A few days later, however, a column by R-J Publisher Sherm Frederick characterized the going-out-of-business remark as a threat that was “ugly,” “boorish” and “asinine.”

This stirred up a blogosphere brouhaha.

In turn, Sun columnist Jon Ralston – no fan of the R-J – basically called Frederick's account a bunch of hooey, and posted a picture of Reid and the advertising director as proof. Whew.

Whatever the truth, here are a few things which all parties can probably agree on:

1) Reid’s remark was ill-advised, and

2) his 2010 re-electionrace could be particularly nasty.

In the meantime, this may call for a beer summit.

-- Ashley Powers

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Photo: Frederick in 2006. Credit: Bryan Haraway / For The Times