Nevada rancher defends remarks loses supporters

first_imgLAS VEGAS — A Nevada rancher who became a conservative folk hero for standing up to the government in a fight over grazing rights lost some of his staunch defenders Thursday after wondering aloud whether blacks might have had it better under slavery.Republican politicians from around the country who have rallied to Cliven Bundy’s defense in recent weeks denounced the comments and distanced themselves from the rancher, including potential 2016 presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. Democrats were quick to pounce on the comments and label Bundy a racist.Bundy has gone from a little-known rancher and melon farmer in rural Nevada to a national political star since he resisted the federal government’s attempts to round up his cattle from federal land because he hadn’t paid grazing fees for two decades. His supporters, especially those on the right, have praised him for standing up to what they believe is a heavy-handed federal government, and several armed militia members traveled to his ranch to back Bundy.His comments were first published in The New York Times on Wednesday, but he did little to tamp down the controversy as he sought to address the public outrage on Thursday. Bundy was quoted in a Times story referring to black people as “the Negro” and recalling a time decades ago when he drove past homes in North Las Vegas and saw black people who “didn’t have nothing to do.” He said he wondered if they were “better off as slaves” than “under government subsidy.”last_img

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