Nevada’s “last cattle rancher” Cliven Bundy became a right-wing hero when he fought the federal government and (at least for the time being) won. But now that it turns out he is a racist, some of his biggest fans are quickly backing away.
Bundy, a 67-year-old Republican and father of 14 who looks exactly like you would expect a Nevada cattle rancher to look, has let his cattle illegally graze on federal land near his ranch for decades. In 1993, the Bureau of Land Management began cracking down, mostly to save the endangered desert turtle, and requested he pay for use of the land, but he refused. He attempted to pay the county, but when they wouldn’t accept payment, Bundy shrugged at the whole thing.
Bundy doesn’t just dislike the federal government, Bundy think it’s some mythical entity.
He has been quoted as saying, “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.” Remarks such as that, unsurprisingly, endeared him to the far-right.
On April 5, the federal government came to let Bundy know that it does indeed exist. The BLM brought in armed federal agents and began removing Bundy’s cattle from the land. They planned to sell the cattle at auction. In addition to the cattle being removed, so was Bundy’s son Dave, who was arrested for refusing to leave the land that had been temporarily closed off.
That night, Bundy took to his website to send a message. “They have my cattle and now they have one of my boys. Range War begins tomorrow.” Range War.
Over the next few days, a heated battle involving Bundy and his supporters—some of whom traveled from out of state—against the BLM commenced.
Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff, so believed in Bundy’s cause that he was basically willing to sacrifice women to prove a point. “We’re actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are 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.”
On April 9, Bundy’s son Ammon was tased by officers after he soullessly kicked a government dog.
And then on April 12, the BLM “announced the decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our grave concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke out against Bundy after the standoff. “Those people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists… They had sniper rifles on the freeway. They had assault weapons. They had automatic weapons.”
But Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) stood with Bundy. “What Sen. Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the standoff “the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government on,” because Obama has been at the helm of federal government since 1993, right? Cruz added that “we have seen our constitutional liberties eroded under the Obama administration.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY ) told Fox News, “There is a legitimate constitutional question here about whether the state should be in charge of endangered species or whether the federal government should be.” Referring to Reid's remarks, Paul said, “but I don’t think name-calling is going to calm this down.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity, who it should be noted doesn’t think the government should be providing things like health care to people, couldn’t seem to figure out why the federal government wouldn't just let Bundy use the land for free. “…What we’ve always been talking about is the government fighting over land that they don’t need for a hospital or a road or a school, and the land is going to be sitting there anyway, and all the cows are doing is eating and maybe going to the bathroom on it.”
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that at a news conference that drew little press, Bundy made some shockingly racist remarks.
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” as he recalled driving by a housing project in Las Vegas. “…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? 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.”
Upon learning of Bundy’s remarks, his supporters immediately backtracked.
Sen. Heller, through his spokesman, said he “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”
Sen. Cruz, also through his spokesperson, said, “those comments are completely unacceptable.”
Sen. Paul, declared the remarks “offensive, and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”
Hannity said in no uncertain terms “his comments are beyond repugnant to me… They are beyond despicable to me. They are beyond ignorant to me.”