Republicans leaders and potential presidential candidates were rapidly distancing themselves Thursday from a controversial Nevada rancher they previously supported after he made racially-insensitive comments about African-Americans and slavery.
Rancher Cliven Bundy regarded as a hero by some on the political right for his two-decade standoff with the federal government over illegal grazing of cattle on public land, was being condemned by several of those who had previously hailed him after The New York Times published comments that he prefaced with 'I want to tell you one more thing about the Negro.'
Recalling driving past a public housing project in North Las Vegas, Bundy told The Times 'in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids - and there is always at least half a dozen people sitting on the porch - 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 said, according to The Times. '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.'
That was enough for several Republican and conservative leaders. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, in a statement Thursday, said 'Bundy's comments are completely beyond the pale. Both highly offensive and 100 percent wrong on race.'
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a potential 2016 presidential candidate who has been trying to make inroads among African-American voters, said Bundy's comments 'on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.'
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who once called supporters of Bundy 'patriots,' denounced the rancher's comments about African-Americans.
'Sen. Heller completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy's appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way,' Chandler Smith, a Heller spokesperson, said in a statement.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, also criticized Bundy's comments. Fox News has extensively covered Bundy's battle with the federal government's Bureau of Land Management. '
'Let Me Make This Plain: I Condemn What Cliven Bundy Said About African Americans,' Van Susteren wrote on her Gret
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who used to live in North Las Vegas, said Bundy 'revealed himself to be a hateful racist' and urged leaders to unite in shunning the rancher.
'It is the height of irresponsibility for any individual or entity in a position of power or influence to glorify or romanticize such a dangerous individual, and anyone who has done so should come to their senses and immediately condemn Bundy,' Reid said in a statement.
Nationally syndicated conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch, who's interviewed Bundy on her show, said his remarks were that of someone who isn't media-savvy, even though he's held daily news conferences.
'I hope no one is surprised that an old man rancher isn't media-trained to express himself perfectly,' Loesch wrote on her blog.
CORRECTION: According to a radio transcript, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., "who once called Bundy 'a patriot,' " actually was referring to supporters of Bundy as "patriots."