- Associated Press - Saturday, December 13, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says there’s a simple reason his name was removed from an outdoor-recreation center at his alma mater in Utah.

“It’s just the right-wing wackos in Utah, no big surprise there,” the Nevada Democrat told the Las Vegas Review-Journal (https://bit.ly/1wocuTh ). “I think they lost more than I did.”

Reid’s name was removed from Southern Utah University’s Outdoor Engagement Center in Cedar City in August, several months after a group of Republicans met with school President Scott Wyatt and made the request to remove it.

Cedar City Councilman Paul Cozzens declined to respond to Reid’s comments Friday, but said he regrets how the removal of the senator’s name caused controversy. He was part of the effort to strike Reid’s name.

“The intent was never to embarrass anyone politically,” Cozzens told The Salt Lake Tribune (https://bit.ly/1GkJRJD ). “His name just didn’t fit on that center … It was never about embarrassing Senator Reid or anyone else. A lot of people want to make it that way, obviously.”

Cozzens’ son, Iron County Republican Party Chairman Blake Cozzens, said Reid’s remarks illustrate why the university should not honor the Democrat.

“Having Harry Reid’s name on the building was offensive to a lot of people,” he said. “We felt he didn’t represent the founders of SUU and it was a disgrace to the community.”

Wyatt has acknowledged he was under pressure from the group of conservatives to remove Reid’s name from the center, but said politics had nothing to do with his decision to do so.

Wyatt maintained he took the action due to confusion about the center’s purpose because no one associated Reid with the outdoors.

He also said the school’s 2011 naming of the center in Reid’s honor generated no donations to it from the senator’s friends as had been hoped. Reid graduated from the university in 1959.

Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said Saturday that a statement the senator issued when the issue first surfaced is “still pertinent.”

“I was approached and asked to use my name and I was happy to, but there was no such agreement to have me raise funds for it. I’m not going to raise money to have my name placed on anything,” Reid said at the time.

Wyatt has said plans call for a future center to be named for Reid on campus. Its purpose will depend on who donates and their interests.

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