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Italian Americans Charge Sen. Harry Reid with Ethnic Stereotyping, Demand Apology

Press Contact: Kylie Cafiero, (202) 547-2900

WASHINGTON, D.C. - January 19, 2006 Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is guilty of "egregious poor judgment and bad taste" and needs to apologize to Senator Rick Santorum and the nation's estimated 26 million other Americans of Italian heritage, according to the Sons of Italy® Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the oldest and largest Italian American organization in the United States.

The charges followed a comment Sen. Reid made during the January 18 telecast of the nationally televised PBS news program, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Part of the interview dealt with current scandals involving lobbyists bribing members of Congress with gifts, money and trips.

When newscaster Lehrer noted that Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) has been among those calling for reforms, Sen. Reid said: "Having Sen. Santorum talk about reform is like having John Gotti talk about doing something about organized crime."

The CSJ is "stunned" by the inappropriateness of such an analogy, according to CSJ national president, Albert DeNapoli, Esq. "We can only surmise that Senator Reid's remark was triggered by Senator Santorum's Italian heritage and we are stunned by the egregious poor judgment and bad taste that comment reveals." De Napoli said.

"For the Senate minority leader to associate the highest ranking Italian American in the Senate with a criminal like John Gotti is beyond any political issues that may exist between the two parties. Instead it shows a profound lack of respect for a Senate colleague as well as the nation's estimated 26 million law-abiding Italian-Americans. We therefore ask Senator Reid to issue an immediate public apology."

Senator Santorum is the son of an Italian immigrant. After earning a B.A., an MBA and a law degree, he was elected to Congress in 1990 at the age of 32. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives until his election to the Senate in 1995.

The Commission for Social Justice® is the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the largest and oldest national organization in the U.S. for men and women of Italian heritage. Founded in 1905, today OSIA has 600,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 700 lodges or chapters coast to coast.