April 24th, 2014
12:00 PM ET
7 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. ryan

    Democrats are the problem. Eliminate the Democrats and there would be high paying jobs for everyone.

    April 24, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  2. Amina S

    After slavery, the Africans were supposed to receive 40 acres and a mule – that is why some of them do not have much; because racism and/or slavery was not abolished; it was only put into law another way. To this day even.

    April 24, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  3. g1911

    All of you uber liberals should take note and learn some History. It was Democrats that owned the slaves, It was democrats that created the KKK, it was democrats that created welfare, HUD, SS, EBT food stamps and Planned parenthood, to control the african americans.......blame it on conservatives all you want.....just making yourself look ignorant! The longest living Senator in the US was BYRD from west virginia, A DEVOUT KKK MEMBER and DEMOCRAT!!!

    April 24, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "Everything that he represents and those that are pushing him to the forefront is no longer America's dirty little secret"
    Correction:
    "Everything that he represents and those that are pushing him to the forefront ARE no longer America's dirty little secret"
    (I think!).

    April 24, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston,Tx

    Bundy needs to learn using code words like Fox and conservatives do and they wouldn't denounce him.

    April 24, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  6. Or Stated Another Way

    If a person is a Democrat, it doesn't necessarily mean they are a black racist. However, if you are a black racist, you are most definitely a Democrat..

    April 24, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  7. SteveInMN

    Subsidy for ME - GOOD!

    Subsidy for anyone else - BAD!

    Very, very, VERY typical Republic.

    April 24, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  8. Deac

    CNN ignored this story when it made the federal government look bad

    April 24, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  9. whta

    So now all the supporters of his previous movement are going to automatically be called racists. Great....

    April 24, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. American

    Bundy could be considered a domestic terrorist and threatening Federal agents with armed force should get him some time with the boys at Gittmo.

    April 24, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. gerald

    He got that right, all they do is sit around and get a free lunch off the white peope who work everyday, they sell drugs, shot each other and commit crimes, free loaders that need to get a job, go to school and quit smoking weed and getting drunk all day. I know the rest of the hard working white people and mexicans and other ethnic groups wish they all got put back on a boat and sent back where they came from.

    April 24, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. Sam T.

    Conservatives made a hero out of this racist pig... and you wonder why I vote democrat. I am not a democrat I just vote for the lesser evil... it's funny how conservatives whine about how the government shouldn't tell us what to do, but yet they want to tell everyone us what to do. Ex> they want to tell GAYS who they can and who they can't marry and how to live their lives... republicans you make me sick with your double standards. and no I am not gay. But don't go telling people what not to do when you don't want people to tell you what not to do. you make me BARF

    April 24, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Sounds like he is a pretty big receiver of government subsidy. What a wack job. Like FOX

    April 24, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. Whack-a-mole

    I agree Toltec1 – also, if the Indians still lived there, the desert tortoise would not be threatened.

    April 24, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. just asking

    Dert McGert
    I guarantee if the "militia" had been black, they'd all be dead now....
    -–

    so you're saying the blm and the obama adminstration is racist and wants to kill black people?

    April 24, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. Glenn

    This guy is just mooching off the tax payers. Free cattle feed dressed up in a bogus anti-government argument. Perhaps the BLM can work out a land trade with the guy AFTER he pays his bill.

    April 24, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. JohnnyBGood

    But it is OK for 12 million illegal freeloaders to get off scot free? Round them up like Bundy and put them in jail. Is that what you liberals want?

    April 24, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. Pollopa

    I'm a land owner. Another land owner inside my land boundaries decides that he is going to use my land w/o permission to make money in the meantime destroying my property. I ask him to stop many times. He takes me to court to try and gain access but loses many times. I show up with a gun a stand my ground, but he shows up armed and ready to fight. So I back off to avoid bloodshed, looking for a way to get to solution and common ground. Then this land owner says I don't exist, but wraps himself in my family colors and belittles my family. How much do you expect me to take? – the USA

    April 24, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. JJR

    "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.

    Well this part of what he said is often true.

    April 24, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  20. Dave

    Way to go, Republicans. You certainly picked one of the best of your group to cheer lead. He's exactly what you are, including all the things you deny that you are. Racist jerks!!!

    April 24, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. genes

    Tea Party fools. The mob mentality.. FOX NEWS appeals to the challenged gene pool amongst us. I'm not wholly against guns.. but idiots with guns are a nusance. Before anyone can acquire a gun, they should have to prove they aren't as dumb as Ted Nugent.

    April 24, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  22. TomGI

    Frankly, I don't expect anything less from this antique hayseed.

    April 24, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Dave

    Fox News is now afraid to report about Bundy. Or even for his name to be mentioned on their network. What's wrong, Republicans? He was your hero just yesterday.

    April 24, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. ronbro51

    And there you have it, Clive Bundy viewed as an American hero because he stood off the Feds and now he is basically exactly what he always was, a racist, welfare parasite, milking money away from tax paying citizens by allowing his cattle to graze on and destroy our land.

    April 24, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Meanwhile...... When are we going to go in there and round up them there cows and have us a big 'ole fashion BBQ?
    How about the land that he DOES own? When are confiscating that?
    Where do they hold these auctions? I hear that you can pick up stuff on the cheap at gubmint auctions....Rolex watches, luxury cars and yachts, cattle and ranches.......

    April 24, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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