Cliven Bundy, the rancher who became a conservative hero until the New York Times quoted him as saying some pretty racist things last night, began a pushback campaign on Thursday against his new characterization as a pro-slavery racist. In short, Bundy said that the "media" took his words "out of context," and that he is "not a racist man." Too bad there's video of Bundy saying exactly what the Times said he did. Whoops.
Here's the video, via Media Matters:
For reference, here is how the Times quoted him:
“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."
Perhaps by coincidence, Bundy's camp posted a Facebook message denying that the Times' characterization of his remarks was accurate, just before Media Matters posted the video.
He then went on Alex Jones's radio show to do a further pushback. When Jones quoted a segment of his remarks to him on air, Bundy replied that it wasn't "exactly what I said," adding that he did not say anything about "Picking cotton." You can clearly hear Bundy say that phrase as quoted by the Times in the video above. Jones called Bundy's denial "bombshell," presumably because he believed him. Bundy said he would "appreciate" a retraction from the Times, in part because he is not racist. Here's an audio of some of that exchange, posted to Twitter by Adrian Chen:
We're keeping a running tally of all of the people who have publicly supported Bundy before these remarks became public.
Update: Cliven Bundy gave a press conference Thursday afternoon, presumably to address his remarks. The press conference began with a statement from Bundy about the armed federal agents who confiscated his cattle. And then, a reporter asked the rancher to respond to criticism about his recent remarks.
Speaking of African Americans, Bundy asked, "are they slaves the way they are?" repeating many of his remarks from the New York Times story. He then repeated his question, "would [they] be happier at home ... with their gardens and chickens and their families having work to do?" Bundy added that he takes issue with the characterization of his remarks on slavery as a statement that black people are "better off" as slaves, because he was simply "wondering" if they were or not.
As the press conference went on, it became more and more clear that Bundy sees little to no difference between government-run social welfare programs and the actual mass enslavement of African Americans before the Civil War. Based on his remarks to the Times, and his repeated defenses of those remarks on Thursday, Bundy seems to presume that nearly all of the people who benefit from government assistance are black.
Bundy got at least one sympathetic question from the audience: "Do you believe it's irresponsible for the media to take your words out of context?" someone asked. His response was that he wouldn't "condemn" the media, because he believes his remarks have started a good conversation: "this thing about slavery and about negros and about government subsidies and the slavery that they put people in when they get them, that needs to be discussed." As he left, some of Bundy's supporters at the conference began shouting criticism at the media in attendance.
cliven bundy starts his press conference with his new black friend next to him pic.twitter.com/jwYfwQKdAI— Oliver Willis (@owillis) April 24, 2014
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.