(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.
Harry Reid is the only domestic terrorist here.
Harry Reid is a national embarrassment.
I think our government has become political terrorist terrorizing the American people.
Poor old Harry is so eat up with hate that he can't decide who he hates most. He zeroed in on Romney, then the Koch Brothers (though he got donations from them) , the Tea Party, John Boehner, George Bush,,,on and on. and actually can not give a truthful reason for any of his rants.
These boys ain't terrirists, they're just guys with guns who threaten to kill people in order to get their way. Refusing to pay taxes and shooting at the government is what patriots do.
Since the people defending that guy are Terrorists as Senator Reid claims, then I better not have the secret service coming to question me when I say that Senator Reid is a terrorist because he is a US Senator who would rather send $2 billion to Ukraine, than to spend that $2 billion on programs in the US that have been cut in the past 2 years
Reid's calling of Americans as domestic terrorists, (many of whom are fed up with the federal governments invasion into every aspect of their lives through regulation, taxation, usurpation and infiltration) shows how far those in government are willing to label those with whom they disagree a threat. The same federal government refuses to label Nidal Malik Hasan (a muslim jihadist) who killed 13 people at Fort Hood a domestic terrorist, instead calling the attack a case of workplace violence. Reid is part of the problem not part of the solution.
Of course they are domestic terrorists.
Its not surprising that our right wing terrorists and traitors deny these facts and attack those who point them out. Its how they roll. But, it does not change the facts of what they are. Criminals never like to be called out for what they are.
I agree, what makes this one family, so special ? Everyone else pays. That the tea party supports them makes sense. Preferential treatment for conservatives. What else is new . They don't want to pay any taxes, but boy , when they need help, they're the first ones in line. They are called Welfare ranchers, living off, of our hard earned taxes.
Traitors and seditionists for sure, but not terrorists. Yet.
I agree with Reid. It's true that the boy scouts and the grandmothers are not terrorist, which Reid agreed with also, but the 'armed militia' and 'snipers' aiming weapons at government officials are clearly NOT Patriots. If Heller really believes that they are 'patriots', he needs to tender his resignation for violating his oath of office.
I wish him no harm, but as god as my witness, I will dance in the streets when he finally passes from this earth.
Once again, Dingy Harry is the wrong. NV please elect someone else.
Distort, Distract, and Divide. Those are the official policies of the Democratic Party. By 2029 no one will be talking about these distractions they will be talking about the debt and austerity measures being put into place. They will be telling the american people that they will not be getting the health care they were promised, or their veteran benefits, or their social security. Harry Reid one of the most corrupt and lawless politicians in the history of the US.
Their are all kinds of terrorist. Terrorist that use the govt. to terrorize the people.
Time to retire Scooby-Doo
We are the Tea Party. We advocate and practice strict Non Violent Civil Disobedience and anyone who acts outside of that practice is not one of us. There is no doubt that one day the US Govt will murder us for our resistance, but from our blood the true nature of this corrupt government will be revealed and a new nation will rise where all people can live free of discrimination and with the freedom to keep their earnings for themselves and their families.
Reid is trying to cast the supporters as terrorists to defend the BLM's massive overreaction of bringing hundreds of soldiers armed with M16s to remove the cattle. By casting them as terrorists, Reid would is trying to discredit criticism of the Federal government and the investigation of the government's response requested by Senator Heller.
Sure the rancher is on the wrong side of the law. But the BLM vastly overreacted, and once again this administration is using the government against the people for political purposes, and Democrats are trying to lie their way out of being held accountable.
Reid isn't protected from slander, outside of the Senate floor, and I'd hope he is sued for casting those protesters as such.
Good job Harry!! Like it when Harry calls it as he sees it, more should do so and not be so wishy washy.
Can't believe those weekend warriors put the women and children out there like that, then again they are
cowards who play games holding their guns which they are nothing without, nothing.
It's quite clear that these marauding bands of "millitia" are little more than anarchists spoiling for a good old fashion gunfight. They are living proof of the need for strict gun controll legislation that keeps weapons OUT of the hands of wackos like these.
Never thought I'd agree with Reid but here it is. (BTW, I bet none of those weapons was automatic.)
Free grazing on BLM land? I certainly hope not. I expect our government to bring in enough military force to return control of that land to the BLM. Then I want the user in court for nonpayment of rent for previous use. Remember a government under law!
Harry Reid is a bully that has gone to far on too many occasions. He is out of touch with most Nevadans and needs to go.
time for Reid to go!
"A major Anerican divide"? Who wrote this nonsense? The dude was blatantly violating g the law. You suggest there is an 'American' divide here? Yea, if you think small percentages of crazies represent some great Amercan divide. God our journalist suck in America.