Cliven Bundy Makes Politically Toxic Remarks on Race

Rancher doubles down on racially charged statement, destroys good will among conservative advocates

The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney reported Wednesday that Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy stated that he often wondered whether “the Negro” was better off under slavery than in the thrall of the welfare state, which he argued left them with nothing to do but “abort their young children” and “put their young men in jail”—remarks he doubled down on Thursday.

With that racially charged rant, Bundy destroyed all the good will he had amassed from conservative political and pundit circles, all of whom are quickly distancing themselves from the polarizing figure.

The quote from The New York Times piece:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and 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?” he asked. “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.”

When the quote began to circulate, immediately Bundy’s high-profile supporters—including Rand Paul, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, Ted Cruz, and State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore—all condemned the indefensible comments and differentiated their criticism of the Bureau of Land Management’s tactless overreach of authority from their support of the racially inflammatory sentiments expressed by Bundy.

Perhaps the harshest criticism came from Glenn Beck, who said on Thursday's broadcast that Bundy's remarks showed "how unhinged from reality this guy is,” and urged political figures to "distance" themselves, warning, “You must know who you are standing next to at all times – with exactness. With exactness we will save our nation.”

On Thursday, Bundy confirmed that the quote in the NYT piece was authentic and expanded on them. Via the RightScoop:

“That’s exactly what I said. I said I’m wondering if they’re better off under government subsidy, and their young women are having the abortions and their young men are in jail, and their older women and their children are standing, sitting out on the cement porch without nothing to do, you know, I’m wondering: Are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were slaves, and they was able to have their family structure together, and the chickens and garden, and the people had something to do? And so, in my mind I’m wondering, are they better off being slaves, in that sense, or better off being slaves to the United States government, in the sense of the subsidies. I’m wondering. That’s what. And the statement was right. I am wondering.”

The National Journal’s Brian Resnick argues that “Bundy just ruined his cause." While the rancher's views on race have nothing to do with arguments over land use, Bundy has just destroyed his political support. Meanwhile, the left will have a field day playing guilt by association and folding this neatly into their Racist Republicans campaign.


UPDATE: Unedited footage of Bundy's remarks on race have surfaced on YouTube providing more context for Bundy's statement absent from The New York Times piece, including the following: 

... and so what I've testified to you -- I was in the Watts riot, I seen the beginning fire and I seen that last fire. What I seen is civil disturbance. People are not happy, people are thinking they don't have their freedoms, they didn't have these things, and they didn't have them. We've progressed quite a bit from that day until now, and we sure don't want to go back. We sure don't want the colored people to go back to that point. We sure don't want these Mexican people to go back to that point. And we can make a difference right now by taking care of some of these bureaucracies, and do it in a peaceful way.

In the unedited remarks, Bundy also defends illegal immigrants. After explaining that he has worked side by side with them, he states:

Don’t tell me they don’t work, and don’t tell me they don’t pay taxes. And don’t tell me they don’t have better family structures than most of us white people. When you see those Mexican families, they’re together, they picnic together, they’re spending their time together, and I’ll tell you in my way of thinking they’re awful nice people. And we need to have those people join us and be with us not, not come to our party.