Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy said Thursday he is "not racist," following an outcry over comments, in which he suggested blacks might be "better off as slaves" in a New York Times article, that were also captured on video.
Bundy told conservative radio host Alex Jones that the New York Times is "making it a racist-type thing. I'm not racist," according to Talking Points Memo.
Some Republicans are distancing themselves from the controversial statements made by Bundy, whose stand-off with the government over grazing fees has become a lightning rod for states' rights supporters.
Bundy suggested some blacks are "basically on the government subsidy" and might be "better off as slaves" in a story by The New York Times that was published Wednesday. He also referred to blacks as "the Negro" in the story. The website bambuser.com also had video of Bundy's comments, which was posted by Media Matters for America.
"His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him," said GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, in a statement released Thursday about Bundy's comments in the NYT.
Paul, who has urged the Republican Party to improve its outreach to black voters, had criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for calling Bundy's supporters "domestic terrorists." In an interview with Fox News earlier this week, Paul had said "we need to tone down the rhetoric a little bit" and said he hoped there would be a "peaceful outcome" to the dispute.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who also took exception to Reid's description of Bundy's supporters, issued a statement through a spokesperson that says he "completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy's appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way." In an interview last week on KSNV-TV in Las Vegas, Heller had said: "What Sen. Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots."
The federal Bureau of Land Management says Bundy owes the government more than $1 million for grazing his cattle on federal land. Amid a BLM roundup of Bundy's cattle earlier this month, his supporters — some bearing arms — gathered to defend him.
Reid, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats pounced on Bundy's comments in the NYT.
Reid said Thursday that Bundy "revealed himself to be a hateful racist." He called on Republicans to help show "a united front" by condemning Bundy. From the Democratic leader's statement:
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. For their part, national Republican leaders could help show a united front against this kind of hateful, dangerous extremism by publicly condemning Bundy.
Here's what Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, posted on Twitter:
On Facebook, Bundy's supporters defended the rancher by blaming the news media for distorting his comments.