After drawing the admiration of conservatives across the nation for his stand against the federal government over grazing fees, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy made it a bit dicier for some folks to continue their support when he pondered during an interview whether “the Negro” was better off during slavery.
Bundy told reporters over the weekend that when he drove by a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, he saw “at least a half-dozen (Black) people sitting on the porch, they didn’t have nothing to do.”
“Because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he added in comments first reported by the New York Times and later seen on video. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.
“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.”
The statements caused some politicians to back off from their support of Bundy — Nevada’s Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who previously called Bundy and the militiamen protecting him “patriots,” said the statements were “racist.” Fox News television host Sean Hannity, previously a vociferous Bundy supporter, said they were “ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable comments.”
But Bundy gave another interview with CNN during which he didn’t back down.
“I don’t think I’m wrong,” Bundy told CNN’s Bill Weir on Thursday night. “I think I’m right.”
Bundy said he’d been simply “wondering whether (Blacks) are that much better off in the situation we’re in now.”
He said he “didn’t really mean it to compare (African-Americans’ current plight) with slavery. I meant to compare it with maybe life on the farm or life in the South, where they had some chickens and the gardens, and they had something to do.”
But Bundy stood by his general premise that Blacks once had better lives, saying right now: “They don’t have nothing to do with their children, their family unit is ruined … That’s what I was referring to, I don’t think they have the life that they should have” because of the government.
He was asked by Weir how he arrived at these generalizations.
“I feel that, because I see that,” Bundy explained.
For two decades, Bundy’s cattle have fed off of government-owned land without paying grazing fees like thousands of other ranchers. The government says he owes $1 million to the feds and armed federal agents moved to oversee the roundup of hundreds of Bundy’s cattle across half-a-million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management. But a ragtag group of armed men flocked to his ranch from around the country, drawn by his stand against the federal government. The federal government released his cattle back onto public land and the militia are still protecting him.
Bundy’s wife, Carol, on Thursday tried to defend her husband, telling the Los Angeles Times, “What he was saying is that there are lots of different forms of slavery. Welfare is one kind. It’s just another way to suppress people.”
Meanwhile, television host Stephen Colbert delivered a stinging comic diatribe against Bundy and Hannity on Comedy Central, saying the two men “go together like Ku and Klux.”