Ohhhhh boy. Cliven Bundy went on CNN's New Day to defend himself this morning, one day after we all found out that the former conservative hero rancher is actually pretty racist. It did not go well for Cliven Bundy. The rancher began the interview by holding up a dead calf live on air, after which he told CNN he wanted to "talk to you about being prejudiced a little bit." What followed was a somewhat astonishing series of thoughts from Bundy on civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks (whom he repeatedly called "Rosa Park")
"I'm not a racist, but I did wonder that," Bundy said in response to a question from Chris Cuomo. That answer is kind of the perfect distillation of what the rancher has been saying to defend himself after the New York Times quoted him waxing nostalgic on slavery. Bundy, it has become clear, believes that there is no harm in "wondering" lots of very offensive things on the record. Here's some of that exchange. We've highlighted the part where Cliven Bundy says that Martin Luther King wouldn't want the media to call him prejudiced:
Chris Cuomo: Are you a racist?
Cliven Bundy: No, I'm not a racist. But I did wonder that. Let me tell you something. I thought about this this morning quite a bit.
CB: I thought about what Reverend Martin Luther King said. I thought about Rosa Park taking her seat at the front of the bus. Reverend Martin Luther King did not want her to take her seat in the front of the bus. That wasn't what he was talking about. He did not say go to the front of the bus and that's where your seat was. What Reverend King wanted was that she could sit anywhere in the bus and nobody would say anything about it. You and I can sit anywhere in the bus. That's what he wanted. That's what I want. I want her to be able to sit anywhere in the bus and I want to be able to sit by her any where in that bus. That's what he wanted. He didn't want this prejudice thing like the media tried to put on me yesterday. I'm not going to put up with that because that's not what he wanted. that's not what I want. I want to set by her anywhere on that bus and I want anybody to be able to do the same thing. That's what he was after, it's not a prejudice thing, but make us equal.
"I understand that Martin Luther King's message was one of peace and freedom," Cuomo said in reply, adding, "when you suggest that you were wondering if blacks were better off as slaves, that's the opposite of freedom and very offensive to people. I think you probably know that." He probably does not. Bundy continued (once again, emphasis ours):
I took this boot off so I wouldn't put my foot in my mouth with the boot on. Let me see if I can say something. Maybe I sinned and maybe I need to ask forgiveness and maybe I don't know what I actually said. But you know when you talk about prejudice, we're talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings. We're not freedom — we don't have freedom to say what we want. If I call — if I say 'negro' or 'black boy' or 'slave,' I'm — If those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive, then Martin Luther King hasn't got his job done yet. They should be able to — I should be able to say those things and they shouldn't offend anybody. I didn't mean to offend them.
The pair went on to argue for most of the remainder of the lengthy interview about race, about Bundy's decision to show a dead calf on air, and about the Constitution. The exchange, to be honest, progresses rather quickly from shockingly offensive to the ramblings of an old man out of his depth. We think this snippet sums things up nicely:
CB: I don't even know how to talk about these ethnic groups.
CC: Then don't.
CB: But I'm going to because I'm interested in those people. I think they should have freedom and liberty.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.