April 24th, 2014
12:00 PM ET
5 months ago

Politicians denounce Bundy's racist remarks

Updated 9:29 p.m. ET 4/24/2014

(CNN) - What started out as a standoff over land rights may be turning into a controversy over race.

Racist comments from Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy - who earlier this month appeared to win a highly publicized standoff against federal authorities over his two-decade long illegal grazing of cattle on public land - are giving Democrats a new weapon to attack some top Republicans who earlier came to Bundy's defense.

And the controversial comments also call into question moves by Fox News and some other conservative media that highlighted the story and painted Bundy as a hero in his battle against federal authorities.

Bundy, 67, won his standoff against federal rangers after armed militiamen came to his side. Even with the incident over, Bundy continued to talk to a dwindling crowd of media from his ranch, about 100 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

The comments that sparked the latest controversy came this weekend when Bundy recalled to supporters about a time he drove by a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, according to a report from The New York Times.

"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," Bundy said, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids - and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch - they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" Bundy continued. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

What Cliven Bundy's comments on race reveal

In a press conference Thursday, Bundy defended and repeated his comments but emphasized he was merely "wondering" whether African-Americans were better off as slaves.

"And that's a question I put before the world: Are they better, or were they better then? I'm not saying I thought they should be slaves, or I wasn't even saying they was (sic) better off; I'm wondering if they're better off," he said.

Bundy said he questions whether those living under government subsidies are living as slaves to the state, but denied he held racist views.

"I might not have a very big word base or vocabulary, I guess, but let me tell you something: When I say slavery, I mean slavery...Slavery is about when you take away choices from people, and where you have forced labor," he said. "You think that's what I'm about, America? If it is, you're sure wrong, because I don't believe in any type of that stuff."

And Bundy didn't back down in an interview Thursday night with CNN's Bill Weir. He questioned whether blacks are better off now when "they don't have nothing to do with their children, their family unit is ruined (and) I don't think they have the life that they should have."

"I don't think I'm wrong," he told CNN, insisting that he'd spoken "from my heart." "I think I'm right."

Asked whether he was any more or less a "welfare queen" as those who get entitlement checks - since his cattle have been feeding off the government, literally, by eating grass on public land - Bundy said, "I might be a welfare queen, but I'll tell you I'm producing something for America and using a resource that nobody else would use or could use."

He said, "I'm putting red meat on your table. Maybe I'm not doing enough, but I'm trying."

'Comments are completely beyond the pale'

Thursday morning, hours after The New York Times story went viral, the Nevada Democratic Party put out a statement saying "These comments are reprehensible, and every Republican politician in the state of Nevada who tried to latch on to Cliven Bundy's newfound celebrity with TEA Partiers and the militia movement should be ashamed of their actions."

"Every Republican elected official who risked inciting violence to gain political capital out of Cliven Bundy now owes the people of Nevada an apology for their irresponsible behavior of putting their own political future ahead of the safety of Nevadans," added the Nevada Democrats.

Some top national Republicans quickly condemned the remarks.

Sen. Rand Paul, who originally supported Bundy's case, issued a statement Thursday morning decrying Bundy's racial comments.

"His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him," said the Kentucky Republican, who's seriously considering a 2016 presidential run.

GOP Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who earlier called his supporters "patriots", also "completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy's appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way," according to his spokesperson, Chandler Smith.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who had not previously weighed in on the land dispute, said in a statement that "Bundy's comments are completely beyond the pale. Both highly offensive and 100% wrong on race."

Democrats had already been on the attack against Bundy before his racial comments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – Nevada's senior senator - last week blasted Bundy's supporters as "domestic terrorists," saying they were arming themselves with automatic weapons and positioning "snipers in strategic locations."

One man, former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack told a reporter the militia were considering putting "all the women" on the front lines.

"If they're going to start shooting, it's going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers," he said.

Questions about media coverage

Some conservative-leaning pundits painted Bundy as an anti-goverment hero. Fox News' Sean Hannity was criticized by liberal media outlets for frequently hosting Bundy on his television program and appearing to defend the rancher.

Hannity said Thursday on his radio show that Bundy's "comments are beyond repugnant to me."

"They are beyond despicable to me. They are beyond ignorant to me," he said, adding that his interest in Bundy's case was entirely about government overreach.

He also chided what he called the liberal media, arguing that they ignore racist comments by Democrats and only focus on Republicans.

"Every conservative I know does not support racism, period," he said.

Another Fox News host, Greta Van Susteren, wrote on her blog Thursday morning that she condemns Bundy's comments.

Others had previously warned fellow conservatives not to get too fired up about the Nevada dispute. Conservative host Glenn Beck said on his show that "10 or 15 percent" of the people who were defending Bundy online were saying things "that are truly frightening."

"They don't care what the facts are," he said. "They just want a fight."

Tucker Carlson, founder of the conservative news outlet the Daily Caller, said on Fox that he sympathizes with the Bundys, but "it's important to point out that this land does not belong to them and that's not a minor distinction, it's the essence of private property."

For his part, Sen. Paul had also cautioned both sides, including Reid, to calm their rhetoric.

"Let's try to have a peaceful resolution to this," he said last week on Fox News.

While Republicans are now trying to distance themselves from Bundy, that's not stopping Democrats from going after them for supporting Bundy in the first place. And the Democratic National Committee says the incident is "more evidence of the shallowness of the GOP's outreach efforts."

"Remember Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson? His racist comments last December were in the same vein as Bundy's. Yet GOP leaders from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Lindsey Graham, and others rushed to defend (Robertson's) comments against a liberal assault. Republicans even invited the Duck Dynasty stars as their guests to the State of the Union!," wrote DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee.

"And therein lies the GOP's problem. If you ever want to be taken seriously for your outreach efforts, you might want to start by not defending racists," Elleithee added.

Battle over land rights

The Bundy standoff is emblematic of the larger anti-government sentiment around the country that has been amplified with the creation of the tea party movement in 2009. But the latest move in a two-decade-long tug of war between Bundy and the federal government is bringing to light the delicate balance that has lasted between citizens in the West and the federal government over the use of federally owned land for generations.

What made Nevada rancher fight the feds?

One protester from neighboring Utah, Stephen L. Dean, 45, called the Bureau of Land Management's actions "tyranny in government." And a banner at the protest site blared: "Has the West been won? Or has the fight just begun!"

In the western states, public lands are a big deal. Almost everyone uses them or depends on them. They are key to people's recreational hiking, fishing, hunting and skiing. And they are critical to people's livelihood, as they are used to cut timber, drill oil, mine coal and ranch cattle.

Vast swaths of the land in the West are predominately public. In Nevada, for example, 87% of the state is owned by the federal government, and the Bureau of Land Management oversees 245 million acres of public lands mostly west of the Mississippi River, not including the lands overseen by the National Forest Service and half a dozen other federal agencies.

In Nevada, ranchers depend on the federal lands for their livelihood. The government began allowing the use of the land in 1877 to promote the economic development of dry, difficult-to-cultivate desert areas. So it offered land for dirt cheap. Bundy says his family has owned the ranch since about the time the Desert Land Act passed.

A version of the law still exists today, allowing ranchers to graze their cattle on public lands for a nominal rate. The fee is cheaper than what the rancher would pay the state or a private land owner, but the tradeoff is that the rancher has to share the land with the public.

After the desert tortoise became a protected species in 1993, the Bureau of Land Management rebuked or phased out the permits of ranchers in the designated area in southern Nevada.

Bundy is the last remaining rancher, refusing to leave and refusing to pay more than $1 million worth of fines. Bundy lost all efforts at appeal and litigation. In an effort to enforce the law, the BLM attempted to round up Bundy's cattle and was met with a clan of armed defenders, leading to the current stalemate between the government and Bundy.

 

 

The Nevada Democrat had already been on the attack against Bundy before his racial comments. Last week the state's senior senator blasted Bundy's supporters as "domestic terrorists," saying they were arming themselves with automatic weapons and positioning "snipers in strategic locations."

Another Fox News host, Greta Van Susteren, wrote on her blog Thursday morning that she condemns Bundy's comments.

Tucker Carlson, founder of the conservative news outlet the Daily Caller, said on Fox that he sympathizes with the Bundys, but "it's important to point out that this land does not belong to them and that's not a minor distinction, it's the essence of private property."

 


Filed under: Dean Heller • Nevada • Rand Paul
soundoff (1,537 Responses)
  1. Vic of New York

    Meanwhile... FOX and the CONS' want to make this guy thier poster boy for "freedom"! Wonder what they would be spouting if he was Black and fighting for sharecropers?

    April 24, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  2. Bluesky001

    I still think what Reid said about being domestic terrorist was worse! And of course all the other things Reid said that are lies as well.

    April 24, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. qsmurf

    As I once again find myself shaking my head in disgust at what conservatism does to peoples' minds, I have to also face the fact that this should no longer be surprising to any of us...as sad as that may be.

    Conservatives are, at best, sociopaths who see the entire world through a prism of selfishness and fear of other people. If you actually believe that there are "moderate" conservatives, I have a bridge to sell you.

    April 24, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. 1alien1

    i am still trying to figure out why these republican politicians lined up behind this guy. everyone who grazes cattle on public lands must pay. by letting him off the hook, what about those that followed the rules and are paying? what makes him different? with his racial views he is the perfect republican candidate though. maybe he should run for congress where he would be with like minded law makers. i like how these politicians that lined up behind this law breaking fool are jumping to get away from him now.

    April 24, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. Ben

    His racial comments are noxious. But that doesn't mean his other stances are automatically wrong or should be discounted.

    You know who said far worse about black people? Ghandi. Are y'all saying we should discount everything Ghandi ever said or did simply because he was racist?

    April 24, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    My sister and her son lived in a housing project for many years, and my sister used to sit outside her app, not because she have the time but because she was resting from long hours at work. Now my nephew is an engineer with a masters degree. As you can see you can not judge others without knowing the facts of why!

    April 24, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  7. Silas

    These guys man. Listen to what else this bigoted idiot had to say:

    "When it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can't be bothered. They're sitting on couches for hours, playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they're fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper."

    "We've got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work."

    Oh wait! That was Michelle Obama.

    April 24, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  8. AlbaMN

    Mr. Bundy is entitled to his opinion and has the right to state it. The problem for the GOP, who made him a hero, is that it gets their "private" thoughts and ideas out there and then they have to pretend they don't agree with him. Reid is also correct in pointing out the hypocrisy of a welfare cheat complaining about people on welfare.

    April 24, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  9. "guntotinredneckvet"

    This country is going downhill fast. I never post comments on stories, but I am getting fed up with all the bickering I see between ALL sides (political, racial, religious, etc.). I grew up in the south (I must be a racist, and uneducated), volunteered to join the US army, served 10 years in Special Operations, served in three combat zones, obtained a degree in engineering, and pay 30% of my income to taxes. I am a believer of this country which is why I served my country, but this country has turned into a bunch of finger pointing cry babies. Sorry, but its how I feel. We have forgotten as a country what we are all about. Its called FREEDOM! We have basic inalienable rights that we are born with because of where we live (the USA). We have to stop crying because we get our feelings hurt. Who cares what someone says? Remember that old saying "sticks and stones can hurt me, but words never can"? I do not agree with his statements, and yes he is a raciest, but he does have his freedom of speech and I will defend that. Just like I will defend everyone's right on here to say what they want. Bash me, I welcome it as I fought to preserve that right for you as well. The point is, there are much larger issues in this country than what people are saying. As for people bashing the people that supported Bundy before his racist comments, well that had NOTHING to do with him being a racist. It had EVERYTHING to do with the government infringing on his rights. Stop reading stories by bias media (on both sides) and do your own research. News in no longer news, it is all opinion. That is why it is imperative to do your own research. I am embarrassed and saddened by how lost we have become as a nation. We have become a lazy, self entitled, hypocritical, name calling, finger pointing cry baby nation with no one taking ownership or responsibility of their own actions,and misfortunes. You don't have to respect a person or what they say, but you have to respect his or her right to say it.

    April 24, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. 4_sanity

    Clive Bundy's family bought the ranch in 1948 and did not start grazing cattle on this land until 19454. Federal grazing rights were established in 1936 and the Bureau of Land Management formed in 1946. Bundy's family or his ancestors never had grazing/water rights in this part of Nevada until they bought this ranch at that time. And these facts were established in court in 1998. Sorry but he's just a liar.

    And the Federal Government owns 87 % of the land in Nevada that it makes accessible for multiple PUBLIC uses. Bundy is just trying to mooch a free ride. he's the ultimate freeloader. The BLM has restricted grazing to meet another PUBLIC interest goal – protecting Desert Tortoise habitat. And your assertion that Harry Reid or his relatives want this land is another completely bogus fabrication. You might be referring to investment for a solar power plant 300 miles away. But then geography never was a strong suit of right-wing extremists.

    April 24, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. BB

    Did anyone think for a moment that anything this man said wouldn't be taken out of context to demonize him in an attempt to turn his supporters against him? I saw this one coming from a mile away. Bundy, while not well spoken, was simply stating that the government has enslaved blacks. They have. That's not racist. Factually, it is love and concern for his common man. But when the term "racist" gets thrown out everyone sucks and runs for cover. It show the true colors of the democrats to manipulate a conversation to get their way. It shows the true colors of the Republicans who used Bundy to support their points until he "gasp" uneloquently made an observation. Shame on all of them and shame on anyone stupid enough to fall for this ploy.

    April 24, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  12. dvz

    Tonight's presenter is Cliven Bundy on the topic 'The Negro: How past security trumps current uncertainty'

    April 24, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. greengestalt

    It'd be easy to reverse the social situation, skin color issue aside...

    End tax breaks and subsidies for any companies that exports jobs. Slap on a law that if they want to sell their product in America they have to pay (in end take home pay) at least "US Minimum Wage"!

    Get RID of illegals, simply by enforcing existing laws city and state governments are derelict on. Make it so hiring an illegal quickly gets the business shut down for weeks, the employer liable for both pay and any damages for lost contracts, and then gets to face a jury to see if they get more fines or time in jail also.

    Do both we'll have a critical lack of labor in America. And there won't be these situations for there will be so many jobs to so few workers, plenty of now marginalized or ignored populations of otherwise legal citizens will find tons of work, good pay, and I think most by far will love it! Oh, we'll still have a few who'll do bad, but IMO they'd be nearly alone in huge prison blocks...

    The Rich Elite would hate it, though. Having to scale back to 10 mansions and yachts they'd cry poverty...

    April 24, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  14. Kip Oliver

    talldave2 wrote: "Clearly Bundy's racist views that blacks are better off with jobs are grounds for him to drawn and quartered."

    @talldave2 – ANYONE of ANY race is better off with a job – duh. Bundy said that he was thinking that the Negros were better off when they were slaves. Would you say that about the poor whites who ALSO live off of government subsidies? Would you say they would be better off if they were slaves because at least they'd have three squares a day and something to do with their time? Bundy isn't even old enough to remember a time prior to the civil war when the blacks were slaves.

    April 24, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  15. Michael Martin

    I thought about this from 2 points of view. If it where me who owed the government money, and kept breaking the law, i would be in jail. If it where a black guy who did this, and black guys showed up with guns, they would all be dead. DEAD
    At first thought hey the government is taking this guys land, that is not cool. Then I find out, he hasn't paid in over 20 years, has lost court battles, and is still letting his cows do whatever he wants, on federal land. What about the other ranchers? They should stop paying also? I lost a court case over some small job, the homeowner lied outright about the agreed contract., instead i paid, it wasn't much anyway it was only about the principle for me. In the end I did the right thing,i told the truth, they had to lie to win a mere $98.00 But, I should have not paid and then i would be a hero too? Is that how it works now? Look, I get that he is old and set in his ways, and he wants to let his cows graze there, But my grandmother lost her home to imminent domain, so i do not feel bad for this guy. The rules are the rules. They put a free in where my grandparents home was.I guess they should of got their guns out and threatened the bulldozers.

    April 24, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. Jerry Okamura

    Is it impossible for a racist, to be right on any other issue, other than race?

    April 24, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  17. greengestalt

    It'd be easy to reverse the social situation, skin color issue aside...

    End tax breaks and subsidies for any companies that exports jobs. Slap on a law that if they want to sell their product in America they have to pay (in end take home pay) at least "US Minimum Wage"!

    Get RID of illegals, simply by enforcing existing laws city and state governments are derelict on. Make it so hiring an illegal quickly gets the business shut down for weeks, the employer liable for both pay and any damages for lost contracts, and then gets to face a jury to see if they get more fines or time in jail also.

    April 24, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  18. Kenman

    Yes, any racist thing said is good for the pandering liberals, who would fight to keep their major voting block in bondage to them, while screaming "racism" at everyone else, whether it's something that's even seen in action or not.

    Do you not think that there are blacks all over the nation saying much more hateful, vulgar things about whites EVERY DAY? But, if anyone cared to report them, as they could daily, there would be an immediate responses on every major LIBERAL media by the liberal apologists for their indentured BASE!

    Sorry to see that racism still exist, but it seems obvious that liberals will take a mustard seed of it and grow a mighty campaign, and use the very victims they say they "represent" as their ONLY way to hold onto power and control like that that has resulted in more blacks on welfare than whites, though blacks are only 13% of the population.

    April 24, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  19. Uhmerikwa 2014 - It suks

    So now you're not free to "wonder" about anything racial in the new Uhmerikwa? It's easy to see why Uhmerikwans had to go all the way to Kenya to find someone to lead them.

    April 24, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  20. PushingBack

    You know both sides are imperfect. But come on, if you're a republican with any sense and you don't stand up and walk out when you continuously see stuff like this, you are most certainly part of the problem.

    April 24, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "Gee, you think "God Bless America" is playing in the background?....

    Nah, more like a recording of Rush Limbaugh reading The White Man's Burden.

    April 24, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. bczu

    MMMM, this is delicious. Also, watching the people that defended this man try and justify his comments, also delicious. MMMM

    April 24, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    They would put their women on the front lines? I guess we know how they feel about women. What a bunch of cowards. I wonder how the women feel about this?

    April 24, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Alonzo Hart

    As a black man I've heard the welfare system vs slave system comparison by other AA's for decades. This man simply stated in his own way what African Americans who hate the welfare system have stated for years. The welfare system helped to destroy the black family by discouraging marriage by black women on welfare as well as discouraged them to be employed until recently. As a result the unemployment rate skyrocketed among a certain segment of the AA community. The marriage rate among BW fell and the percentage of Black children born to single mothers rose as well. As a black man I don't see anything to be alarmed about as it pertains to Bundy's take on the issue.

    What he says has been stated in different ways by the Black Panthers, and other leaders in the black community for years.
    -------------------------------
    Sorry. I'm not aware of anyone saying black Americans would be better off living as slaves, except for overt racists.

    April 24, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. Joshua

    Bundy is not a hero, but neither is the BLM, a legislative group which has usurped executive powers by establishing their own SWAT and tactical enforcement teams. As far as race goes, each person is entitled to their own opinions.

    April 24, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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