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. Bill

    Seriously, this guy is not racist. It's a fair comment to be curious about someone's living condition now and compare it to years ago. That is the point. Stop twisting his words people, it doesn't make him look foolish. It makes everyone else look foolish in fact. Furthermore, it shows how little people read when they comment about him or his family "freeloading" off the land. Here's the fact. They don't dispute using the land and working to reach an agreement from what I can see. They just believe it's THE STATE and NOT the Federal Government who they should be dealing with, That's a completely different story than being a freeloader people. Additionally, the tax they are imposing on "grazing" is a nonsense tax. The grass is not doing any good and his business supports the community and state. It was nothing short of the government being over zealous in reaching for tax dollars. Yet, the grass will grow and wither and you still won't have any money to show for it. It should benefit the state and it's citizens, period. Oh right, there's that whole thing about the handful of turtles. Seriously, cows don't eat turtles. Let's get real.

    April 24, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  2. jcs6

    He was a hero for conservatives...until he started saying what most of them really think.

    April 24, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  3. LTD

    yes his personal views of the world are not worth listening to but his fight for his land and grazing rights for his cows are. This could happen to any of us. If big government wants something you have they can just take it.

    April 24, 2014 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Much ado about nothing is what I think of his "racist" comment. Firstly, he admits that ""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," .

    From that I take it he means that he himself feels a slave to the government, since he is also having to confront the government for a way of life his family had for over a century (Desert Land Act made it possible). Now the government is taking his way of life away. Sounds very much to me what the whites did to the native americans (AKA indians) way back when America was in infancy.

    He also said:
    "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.

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

    My point in short is; Both the republicans and the democrats are using this Bundy incident to their advantage. The republicans paint him as a hero against an over-reaching government, and the democrats use his Politically Incorrect" way of expressing his ordinary and very human way of simply wondering and asking oneself questions. His sin here is to have expressed his harmless thoughts not to his village but to the global village that we now find ourselves in via the internet. A village of over 7 billion people with each unique individual having their own opinion. Peace.

    April 24, 2014 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  5. lilspenny

    A Tea Party darling is racist?! OMG, say it isn't so!!

    April 24, 2014 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  6. LTD

    His lame comments have nothing to do with the Dems or Reps. The fight for his land is the issue, where he is in the right. His uneducated views on the world have nothing to do with the topic of his land and grazing rights for his cows.

    April 24, 2014 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  7. Name

    American country was established or hate it and it will die on hatred of the black man

    April 24, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  8. Joeseph Eclaire

    The problem as I see it with these Republican politicians and media types now trying to get away from Mr. Bundy is that they knew before hand who they we're catering to he is the face of their base and they know it.

    The lid has finally come off and we are seeing it point blank.
    They talk a good line about government intrusion but yet we can see how a Mr. Bundy has made a good living. Off the government.

    We all know the so called self made man Mitt Romney made his living off the backs of Americans by selling our jobs overseas and getting government approval. Didn't even have the guts to release all his tax records because he knew what it would show.

    I myself am tired of you so called superior Whites who even have the nerve to look down on me.
    Because I'm a poor White.
    You told people if they wanted to get ahead to get a college education, then you turned right around and import the H1-B visa folks all so you can live good. You made people poor and then try to act like you never gamed the system. America gave you that opportunity and you turned capitalism into a dirty word.

    I don't want to waste the energy thinking about race that's not reason people like a Mr. Bundy and a Mr. Romney bother me.

    April 24, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  9. Suzy Hager

    "Every conservative I know does not support racism, period"

    I seriously do not believe that sentence is true.

    April 24, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  10. Kathleen Yack

    The point is that Bundy was using government land to feed his cattle. He was not paying, therefore he was on subsidy/welfare. When told to move, he protested...hence the situation arose. He then complains that "Blacks" were better off working than on welfare. So let's get this straight...whites can be on subsidies/welfare, but Blacks were better off picking cotton? Just because someone gave them "direction?"
    Listen up folks, this is your NEW AND IMPROVED GOP (largely influenced by the Tea Party). This is a National Disgrace!!!!! Shame on all of us for letting them get anywhere near power in this country!

    April 24, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  11. Marc

    Shoot the old gizzard.

    April 24, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  12. CL Smith

    Well, it looks like Bundy stomped real hard in a pile his cow's poo and got a lot of it on his supporters.

    But, since he's an anarchist, what did they truly expect?????? When you lie down with deadbeat cattle anarchists, you frequently get up with cow poo on you!

    April 24, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  13. opinionsmatter

    Either way you look at it, what happened during slavery was for the benefit of some people (greed). This is regardless of the man's color who put restrictions on other human beings. Either way you look at it, wealth and liberty was gained by some and denied to others. The disparity between (whites) and (blacks) are the things that I see. That wealth is what you have passed from generation to generation

    April 24, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  14. Mike Buck

    Shocked I say, shocked! Now I can go back to not watching Duck Dynasty.

    April 24, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  15. Moe

    Why do people always think that it's black folks lead the country on welfare and government aid and that isn't the case

    April 24, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  16. Kathleen Yack

    Mistype..".working as slaves"

    April 24, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  17. Pythagore

    How Black people like me were brought up in an argument between the Feds and a white Nevada rancher?(

    April 24, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  18. Steve

    So the pot calls the kettle black. One welfare queen disses others. And taxpayers pay.

    April 24, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  19. Grin

    Put a stupid person in front of a microphone and they'll take the opportunity to prove themselves every time.

    April 24, 2014 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  20. drinnc

    This old dude has beenout in the sun too long.

    April 24, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  21. dotheflippin'math

    Forget Bundy, the real problem are all the people who showed-up with their guns, and the rest of these dangerous gun-toting Tea Party anarchists. Enslaved to the government?? We pay less taxes than most successful countries. If you are broke and can't get a job, the US won't let you starve to death. We've had a long tough recession. The top 5% richest people owned around 20% of the nation's money in 1984. Today, they own over 45%. The rich keep getting richer, and they use the right-wing "patriots" to help their cause. I'm watching a friend get sucked into this TP crap. It starts with conspiracy theories about our foods, doctors, and progresses to 9-11, Big Brother, Lunar landing hoaxes, and keeps going until they think armed revolution is around the corner. Who's doing the brainwashing? Chiropractor/naturopaths (for profit), the NRA and gun lovers (for profit..and more guns), Evangelical & other fanatical Christians (always ready for 2nd coming, and are really hurting financially), FoxNews (the "dark side" of unfair/unbalanced news has great commercial value), and many more. Damn good thing nobody started shooting. Our country is starting to freak me out. The GOP is becoming a terrorist group.

    April 24, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  22. Olaf Big

    I am laughing my btt off. He is putting meat on Americans' tables?!! He is putting your tax money in his pockets! That's the delightful irony of this story. All these antigovernment paranoid types, who bitterly complain how the government misuses their taxes, converging on his ranch to defend a guy who is stealing millions of their tax money!

    April 24, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  23. Valeroe Lacasse

    This in Response to "Vee" who does not view the mans opinion as Racist Personally I find You more offensive and him as just one ignorant uneducated man, as for the view of Black Americans I think is a generalized statement, I live in a Community where the people with the least ambition are the Caucasians, they also have only completed High School and some no so,This is a complex matter so instead of sitting on the Fence it would be best it we try to harmonize and educate each other,Americans make me laugh they are so pre-occupied with the race thing.,Stupid what about the economy and what is happening around the world

    April 24, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  24. jcnitt

    I can't believe anyone would "agree" with his statements. I'm not black, but I don't think ANYONE would ever want to be a slave. Let's see...beaten daily, whipped, tortured, raped, killed, forced to work for little or no wage, or basically treated like less than a dog. His statements are ridiculous and unrealistic. Slavery still exists in some countries, but some people in the U.S. seem to think "it wasn't so bad" or that all people on welfare are black. Please get your statistics right! Most of the people on welfare are mostly Black and WHITE...the numbers are almost equal...39.9% are Black and 38.9% are White!

    April 24, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  25. Heysus

    An armed militia pointed guns at the Federal government in defense of this racist and the government did nothing? That is something Americans should be worried and concerned about!

    April 24, 2014 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
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