A day after Cliven Bundy's comments about "the Negro" and
government subsidies were published in The New York Times, Senator
Rand Paul of Kentucky issued a statement saying the rancher's
"remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with
Paul, regarded as a potential Republican contender for the
presidency in 2016, has expressed sympathy for Bundy's cause and for
the resentment that many conservatives in the West harbor towards
Washington over government policies they find intrusive.
A spokeswoman for Senator Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican who has
called Bundy's supporters patriots, said her boss "completely
disagrees with Mr. Bundy's appalling and racist statements, and
condemns them in the most strenuous way."
Fox News Channel commentator Sean Hannity, who has been one of
Bundy's most outspoken public supporters, also weighed in on his
daily radio show to denounce the rancher's "ignorant, racist,
repugnant, despicable comments."
The 76-year-old rancher, from Bunkerville, Nevada, became a symbol
for conservative Republicans, particularly among the Tea Party
movement, for his actions in defying the federal Bureau of Land
Management (BLM), an agency of the U.S. Interior Department.
The dispute dates back to 1993 when Bundy stopped paying monthly
fees the government charges ranchers to allow their cattle to roam
federal range lands.
Saying Bundy owes more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees and
had ignored court orders to remove his cattle from public land, the
BLM sent armed rangers to Bundy's ranch earlier this month to round
up his cattle by force.
Anti-government groups, gun rights activists and right-wing militia
members rallied to Bundy's defense. Following a brief armed
stand-off, the government backed down, canceled its roundup and
released the cattle that had been seized.
Bundy's supporters hailed the outcome as a victory over government
tyranny. Detractors have called Bundy an outlaw.
During a small gathering last Saturday at his ranch, Bundy, in
remarks quoted by The New York Times and captured on video footage
posted online, shared his views on race, which he said were informed
in part by a drive he had taken past a public housing project in the
city of North Las Vegas.
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," Bundy
began, as he recounted seeing a group of "older people and kids"
sitting idle in an open doorway of the building.
"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?" he asked. "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."
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Supporters were quick to defend Bundy on a Facebook site managed by
his family on Thursday. One post on the page, which showed more than
89,700 backers, dismissed the Times' account as "new rumors,"
suggesting Bundy's comments had been distorted.
"Cliven is a good man, he loves all people, he is not a racist man.
He wants what is best for everyone," the post said.
Republican Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who has visited
the Bundy ranch in support of his cause, said in a separate
statement: "I strongly disagree with Cliven Bundy's comments about
slavery." But she reiterated her criticism of what she called BLM
Bundy himself stood by his remarks in a guest appearance on the
"Peter Schiff Show" radio program, and repeated his views.
"That's exactly what I said," he replied when asked about his
comments concerning blacks. "I'm wondering, 'Are they happier now
under this government subsidy system than they were when they were
slaves, and they was able to have their family structure together,
and the chickens and garden, and the people had something to do?'
... I am wondering."
His son, Ammon Bundy, told Reuters by telephone on Thursday that he
believes his father's plain, unsophisticated way of speaking left
"He's a rancher. He's not a professional speaker. ... His vocabulary
is a rancher's vocabulary," the son said.
Asked on CNN about Hannity's characterization of his remarks as
ignorant and racist, the elder Bundy said, "Well, I hope I'm not
(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner and Steve Gorman;
writing by Steve
Gorman; editing by Cynthia Johnston, Leslie Adler and Simon
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