(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.
Follow @politicalticker Follow @LisaDCNN
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.
Harry Reid is the real domestic terrorist here. The ranchers haven't terrorized a single soul (bar perhaps the poor dog that got kicked).
Harry Reid's Orwellian use of language sickens me.
Shut up old man, you're a disgrace for calling Americans "terrorists." You clearly have no idea what the word means even after 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. Retire already.
There is no doubt these people are "Domestic Terrorists."
Why can't he use the "public" land in the dessert that nobody else wants except for Mr. Reid? This is a great thing we are witnessing, citizens finally fighting back a land and power grab by the U.S. government. I mean it is the peoples land! you can not dispute that.
Reid is trash, much like most of Washington. Bunch of elitist hypocrites.
Harry is upset because they are on 'his land'–he and his son probably wish to put some more eco-friendly wind farms out there. If this was all about some land tortoise as the Feds claim, their argument is somewhat pointless. The litigation has been going on for years. Either the tortoise can co-exist, or it went by the way of the dinosaur. Either way, the cattle should stay. Even NYC squatters have more rights than this rancher. Why?
Of course a Republican would see it this way. A Texas rancher is grazing on government land, which means that he has an advantage over other beef sales. 1% ring a bell. Same as wall street.
Harry just needs to go play Bingo at the local senior citizens center !!! Where hopefully he doesn't hurt anybody ....
Harry Reid should be removed from office. Private militias are not illegal nor did anyone attending the Bundy event break any laws or commit acts of terrorism. Washington officials who call law abiding US citizens terrorist because they gather in protest of questionable government activities represents a clear and present danger to the safety of the citizens of the United States. ..
Give it up Harry. You are old, paranoid and delusional. Not to mention you look like the crypt keeper.
Using women (2nd class citizens) to be used a human shields to protect a terrorist. Nice.
These militia guys are a bunch of testosterone-infused idiots playing little-boy games with high-powered rifles. Patriots? What a joke! Guys like the rancher think they should have special rights to abuse PUBLIC lands and PUBLIC resources, while paying nothing for it, not even their taxes. Why the hell should my tax dollars (yeah, I DO pay my taxes!) subsidize the degradation of public lands by some redneck cow-pusher??? I think he should be arrested and prosecuted for tax-evasion! And the little militia thug-boy should crawl back under their rocks where they can continue their fantasy-game without threatening and hurting people sent to do their jobs.
Dirty Harry Reid....term limits anyone?
Hiding behind women and children is undefensable. The guy needs to go directly to jail.
Just a picture of that conniving shyster harry makes my blood boil. He epitomizes the depth of corruption in government. He's got his sleazy fingers all over Bundy's ranch he just needs to get Bundy arrested or break him financially to profit. Him and his lawyer son.
I'm seeing only one "domestic terrorist" in this story. And the sorry sack of excrement's name is Harry Reid.
Just like Harry to call Americans terrorists.
Come on Nevada...are you that ignorant to keep voting for this fool?
Best keep to the straight and narrow, Mr. Reid. You don't want the militia showin up.
McVeigh was a domestic terrorist. The only difference between him and the armed lunatics who showed up to defend Cliven Bundy is that McVeigh took his hatred out on a building filled with women and children. The only reason that the Bundy mob didn't get to spill blood is because the BLM showed some intelligent restraint. These people committed several felonies, including the assault of a police dog, and they should have all been arrested. Cliven Bundy is a moocher who has been saving money on cattle feed by letting his cattle graze on publicly owned land. He and his sons should also be jailed for inciting people to break the law.
Reid is all for "the common man" ... until the common man's interest are suddenly inconvenient to Reid.
I love how Harry Reid calls protesting American's that have killed no one terrorists when he won't even call Hasan the Fort Hood killer a terrorist. What a joke and it shows where his heart is.
soon to be ex senator Reid...
In other news. Reids son Rory is an employee of the Chinese company ENN who builds solar panels. The land that Clives family has used to graze on since the 1880s is the same land where they want to put a solar panel farm...built by ENN. Amazing. Reid is the domestic terrorist. He is paying his sons company millions and millions and then helping to evic a persons family who has worked the land over a 100 years. Sickening.
You break the law you go to jail.
Thats where Bundy belongs.