BUNKERVILLE, Nev., April 24 (UPI) -- Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who has become a hero to many on the right by defying the federal government, has caused a firestorm with remarks on race.
Bundy was quoted by the New York Times suggesting that blacks might have been better off as slaves. The Times said that Bundy, holding court for supporters at a checkpoint on the driveway into his ranch, talked about driving past public housing in North Las Vegas, which he called "that government house."
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton," Bundy said.
"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."
Some politicians have openly supported Bundy in his dispute with the Bureau of Land Management, including two U.S. senators, Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott, who is running for governor. Heller called Bundy a "patriot" after his Democratic colleague, Majority Leader Harry Reid, said Bundy and his supporters are "domestic violent terrorist wannabes."
But politicians denounced Bundy's racial speculation.
Heller “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements," a spokesman, Chandler Smith, said. Laura Bean, an Abbott spokeswoman, said a letter he wrote on the BLM “was regarding a dispute in Texas and is in no way related to the dispute in Nevada.”
"His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul told NBC News.
While Bundy has been photographed holding a U.S. flag, he has said he does not recognize the federal government. The BLM says Bundy owes more than $1 million in fees for grazing his cattle on federal lands but ended an attempt to seize the livestock when hundreds of armed supporters showed up.