President Obama insists Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid is "good man who's always been on the right side of history" and that the Senator was trying to compliment the president when he made a controversial reference to Mr Obama's race and dialect.

"For him to have used some inartful language in trying to praise me, and for people to try to make hay out of that makes absolutely no sense," Mr Obama said in an interview to TV One.

The president is referring to comments Reid made during the 2008 presidential campaign, that have come to light in a newly released book "Game Change." According to the book, the majority leader referred to the then junior senator from Illinois as a gifted candidate who was a light-skinned African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

Senator Reid called President Obama over the weekend to offer an apology, which the president accepted. "He apologized," Obama says in the interview. "Recognizing that he didn't use appropriate language, but there was nothing mean-spirited in what he had to say." Mr Obama adds, Reid's "always been on the right side of the issues" on voting rights and civil rights.