(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.
I had no idea there were so many Ted Nugent types in NV.
--Reid is 100 percent right. Republican cult is the main domestic terrorists, in fact they are worst than Al Queda.
Government are the terrorists.
Ignorance and arrogance best describes a man who can never be harry reid.
Reid is the terrorist.
do these guys get more stupid in Congress?. he is definitely losing it...and should be put out in the pasture with McCain....both are beyond contributors to our government.
any one that takes up arms against the US gov is and should be tried as a domestic terrorist .. terrorism is not in the eye of the beholder it is in the eyes of the law
Mr. Reid – the pot that called the kettle black.
This is just another conservative millionaire too cheap to pay his taxes.
A terrorist to me is someone who destroys our freedoms. If you or any other senator want to see a terrorist look in the mirror holding up the patriot act.
I think to some extent both Reid and Heller are right. And, the truth of the matter is somewhere in between.
In my mind this incident was clearly building to a Waco/Ruby Ridge slaughter and thus I appreciate the cooler federal heads that back off a bit. On the other hand Bundy is clearly in the wrong and has no legal leg to stand on.
I would use legal processes like a ien, tax penalties, garnishments to punish him financially. Also, he could be hauled before the judge and jailed for Contempt which would be at the courthouse and under more control than the OK Corral or wherever all the conflict was.
Somebody really smart needs to find a way to bring Bundy to justice and accountability.
It's never been about grazing rights, It's always been how can I water 1.000 cattle for free on the finacial backs of America....We all watched the video and their is nothing to eat for the cattle so than is mus be about WATER,,,
Harry Reid should be thrown out he is a 1st class nut job. the people of Nevada should be real proud of their voting.he can't even talk that you can hear him. he has been around too long.
Harry Reid is a clown.....period...............
It's always been about water....which Bundy doesn't want to pay...
Protestors are terrorists according to Reid? I would say as the days go by the democrats are becoming the terrorists. This party is nothing like my fathers party that I grew up with.
If he was a real man he's resign, but we all know he's not.
These psychotic-right militias all fit a mold: that they're convinced it's them-against-the-world. Is there an appreciable distinction then between them and the jihadi's? Because they're home-grown their psychosis is somehow different?
The video clearly shows the feds showed up as an Army, it was very clear for all to see the Reid is lying again.
Can someone please show me a picture of someone not with the Feds with automatic weapons? I don't think that happened.
Am I accusing Harry Reid of lying? Democrats never lie!
Harry Reid is an international terrorist!
This time have to agree with Harry. These are nothing but common criminals.
Harry Reid.. Another person who deserves a big slap across the face.
mr reid will try to paint anyone who defends Mr. Bundy as the worst of the worst; however, mr. reids four sons, all lawyers, and lobbyists are assisting their dad in stifling Mr. Bundy, so they can railroad a train from LA to Las Vegas, at taxpayers expense while trying to force Mr. Bundy off this land, in order to sell the mineral rights to the Chinese; this is a US Senator, being paid by US Taxpayers,, who will stand to make millions for himself, his sons, and their lobbyist at the considerable expense of the American people; if there was ever a need for impeachment, this is it
Reid calls them DT?? What does that make the Feds?? Reid and his cronies that think like him are the biggest problem facing the USA today! Of the People, By the People & For the People isn't just a 'Rally Cry' it is the "Law of the Land'@