(CNN) - In a blunt exchange that hit on a major American divide, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, stood by his comments that militia groups involved in a ranch standoff are “domestic terrorists,” while the state’s Republican senator, Dean Heller, replied that he considers them “patriots.”
The two men appeared Friday afternoon on KSNV’s “What’s Your Point?” question-and-answer show.
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The first question went to Reid, about his comments that a few hundred people protesting and blocking federal action against rancher Cliven Bundy are “domestic terrorists.”
“What did you mean by that?” co-host Amy Tarkanian asked.
“Just what I said,” Reid responded.
The Democrat later clarified that he was not talking about Bundy himself necessarily, but about outside individuals who traveled to the area in the recent days.
The standoff on the dusty Nevada land has been building for decades, as the federal government has worked to block Bundy’s cattle from grazing on public land. The family has raised cattle in the area for generations, but 20 years ago the land they used was declared off limits in order to protect a desert tortoise.
Related: What made Nevada rancher fight the feds?
Bundy has continued grazing anyway, insisting he is within his rights. Last week the issue hit a new hot point when hundreds of self-described militia groups came to Bundy’s land to protest federal action and help him defend his grazing ability.
That’s who Reid described as “domestic terrorists”.
“600 people came armed, they had practiced, they had maneuvered… they set up snipers in strategic locations… they had automatic weapon,” the leading Democrat said Friday. “And they boasted about the fact they put women and children… so they would get hit first.”
“If there were ever an example of people who were domestic violent terrorist wannabes, these are the guys,” Reid concluded.
Heller, sitting inches away from Reid in the television studio, rejected the thought. “What Senator Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots,” he said.
Reid interrupted. “These people think they’re patriots, they’re not,” the majority leader insisted. “If they’re patriots, we’re in very big trouble.”
His Republican colleague jumped back in. “Well, it’s a pretty broad brush,” Heller responded. “You have Boy Scouts out there. You have veterans at the event, you have grandparents at the event. As long as they’re not promoting violence…”
“Promoting violence?” Reid asked. “Sniper rifles…. Grandmothers? Boy Scouts? I hope not.”
The Silver State’s two U.S. senators never raised their voices and the dispute kept a respectful tone. But the disagreement fell across sharp philosophical lines that have defined some of the most passionate feelings in modern American politics. Are militia and anti-government groups a threat to American life? Or is the federal government the problem?
Reid insisted it was the former, that protestors at the ranch were threatening U.S. government workers. And he described ranch owner Bundy as a man who hasn’t paid his taxes and sees Washington as a foreign power.
Heller spoke of the situation as a rancher trying to survive government regulation and facing an “army” sent in by the United States to dislodge his cattle.
“There was no army,” Reid responded.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the primary agency involved, has not indicated what its next move will be in the standoff.
Reid is moron who is just throwing more fuel on the fire. The Bundy`s are in the wrong. I don`t want to see another Ruby Ridge.
When dead beat rancher Bundy's underground militia posts snipers on the overpass with weapons pointed at BLM agents, that pretty much makes the designation domestic terrorists true to form.
They were willing to take up arms against American kids paid for by the tax payer and working for Uncle Sam.. If that isn't terrorism I don't know what is. Not a patriot in the bunch of them.
When you come out of the box swinging with crap like using women and children as human shields the way the Taliban and Al Qaeda do...and saying that you'll do it for exactly the same reason that the Taliban and Al Qaeda do it....then yeah, you might be a freekin terrorist.
Give um Hell Harry !
And thank you for supporting Native Americans .
It's important to remember who's land it is , and was !
Reid is correct. This guy is using American land to feed his cattle for profit. There is nothing "romantic" or "idealistic" about a lifelong freeloader.
Republicans rail against welfare, but give this guy a free pass?
They are terrorist. They have one interest and that's to kill people in the government.
There's nothing patriotic about aiming a sniper rifle at a fellow american citizen doing his job. These nut jobs are just looking for a reason to show off their guns in the fantasy world they've created for themselves.
For all of you that want to know exactly what Reid is refering to: google the photos and interviews with the Bundy supporters on the bridge pointing their guns at the local Sheriff. That is domestic Terrorism
Reid is absolutely right.... I am with him....
"Reid defends terorrist [...]"
The only difference between Reid and John McCain (R) is that Reid defends Financial terrorists while McCain defends Syrian Terrorist.
Republican = Democrat.
Time for a third party, America. You know it and I know it.
This clown needs to retire. What kind of morons keep re-electing this idiot. Really, can the bar be set any lower?
Reid should be in prison. However, while we're at it, why doesn't someone from CNN ask the Senator how he would classify the person arrested today in St Louis for shooting at cars. Is he a domestic terrorist Mr. Reid?
Of course he does. Under the recent legislation, this empowers the feds to try them all as terrorists rather than civilly disobedient citizens.
They are terrorists. Why can't they find the government leaning on an honest citizen instead of someone who has broken the law already? How about a traffic stop or other interference with someone NOT showing any indication of breaking the law? That happens and I would be upset right along with you. I think it is telling that these gun folks cannot tell the difference.
Does Harry Reid live on planet crazy? Honestly, and these are the people running our government. Gee, big wonder why things are bad and getting worse. I like how Reid said that women and children were somehow stationed in a precarious position to be shot, and that the "patriots" (in his patronizing tone) were happy about that - even boasting about it. If anyone believes Reid's statements after hearing something as ludicrous as that - those people really need to snap out of whatever government-induced trance they are in!
They are not patriots! He did not pay taxes for many years. He is unpatriotic and so are the other nut jobs!
If you do not like it here, please go to Russia or China!
It is very obvious the ultra far left leftist Democrat Party has been totally taken over by Communists. Who else would call fellow Americans terrorists? This people need to be driven from office like the dogs they are.
The only real terrorist in America today is our GOVERNMENT!
Harry Reid is the terrorist and a Liar as well. Nevada,…. get rid of this idiot!!
This man is an instigator, he wants violence to happen so he can send in the federal troops to arrest American citizens for a situation he created.
You would think other dems would be upset about Harrys comments . Aleast one . ha funny
Did the government come armed? I'm sure they did. So it's OK for them to bring weapons to force something, but not OK for citizens to band together with weapons to scare them off.
I'm pretty sure the British felt the same way as Reid. It's all a matter of perspective.
Republican senator, Dean Heller, replied that he considers them “patriots.”
So, patriot is now defined as someone with a gun who wants something for nothing?
Defending his terrorists comments are not necessary, often Americans conjure fancy names, that militia mess is glorified terrorism, as is the modern day tea party, so-called Christian conservative, all terrorism don't manifest as bombs and bullets, in America acts of terror is subliminal today