Minority Leader Harry Reid, who announced Friday he won’t seek reelection in 2016, spent more than three decades in the Senate, the last as Democratic leader. Though famous for his soft-spoken delivery, Reid’s reputation is one of a scrappy fighter, delivering jabs to his fellow elected officials fitting for a former amateur boxer.
Here, a few memorable moments in his rough-and-tumble life.
1. In 2005, in the middle of George W. Bush’s second term as president, Reid was speaking to a group of high school juniors from Las Vegas when he got a little too candid about the commander in chief: “The man’s father is a wonderful human being,” Reid said. “I think this guy is a loser.” He later called Bush to apologize for his comments.
2. In the late 1970s when Reid was head of the Nevada Gaming Commission, he was supposed to help the FBI arrest an entertainment manager who had tried to bribe him. Instead of following the agreed-upon plan, Reid tried to choke the man, yelling, “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” before the FBI could restrain him.
3. Reid ascended to power from humble — and uncommonly challenging — beginnings in a Nevada mining town, and his upbringing prematurely toughened him. According to a 2010 profile in The New Yorker, “at fourteen, Reid had a fistfight with his father (because he was beating Reid’s mother). At nineteen, he had a fistfight with his future father-in-law (because he opposed his daughter’s marriage).” A high school teacher of Reid’s — Mike O’Callaghan, who’d later become the governor of Nevada — helped him use that pugnacity in starting his lightweight boxing career.
4. During the 2012 election, Reid alleged three times — once in an interview with The Huffington Post, once on the Senate floor, and once in an official statement — that Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, hadn’t paid his taxes in 10 years. Here, Reid is in Senate chambers, criticizing the GOP nominee:
5. The relationship between Reid and former President George W. Bush was famously contentious, and Reid called Bush a “liar” back in the early 2000s for his approval of storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain in Nevada. According to Reid, Bush had previously indicated he wouldn’t approve the plan. Reid later doubled down on his accusation in an interview with Charlie Rose:
6. Back in 2012, the Washington Nationals’ then-19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper — who is from Reid’s home state of Nevada and, like the minority leader, a Mormon — was asked by a reporter if he’d planned to celebrate a recent win against the Toronto Blue Jays with a drink. (In Canada, the legal drinking age is 19.) He famously retorted, “I’m not answering that. That’s a clown question, bro.” One week later, Reid responded to a reporter’s question about immigration in an identical way, to the delight of the press gathered around him:
7. Reid worked as a Capitol Police officer while he was putting himself through law school at George Washington University in the early 1960s. After officers were criticized for their handling of a car chase before the 2015 State of the Union address, Reid called himself a “stalwart defender and protector” of the Capitol Police. On Thursday evening, as if reminiscing about his career ahead of the retirement announcement, he posted a photo of his vintage badge on Instagram.
8. Reid’s tough words haven’t been reserved only for sitting presidents or presidential candidates. According to a report in Politico, during a Democratic policy lunch during the 2013 government shutdown, Reid let loose on House Speaker John Boehner, asserting, “He’s a coward!” for privately supporting federal health care subsidies for members and staffers then later publicly denouncing them.