Cliven Bundy, the embattled rancher who revealed himself this week to be not just a critic of the government, but also a blatant racist, dug himself further into a hole Friday morning by saying that Martin Luther King “hasn’t done his job” if Bundy “can’t say negro or slave or black boy without those people being offended.”
On Saturday, Bundy recalled a time when he drove past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas and observed that “the negro” were dependent on government: “they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he said. “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.”
Bundy also wondered if black people would be better off picking cotton as slaves than being free. In separate clarifying comments on Thursday, he added that they might be “happier than they was when they was in the South in front of their homes with their chickens and their gardens and their children around them and their men having something to do.”
In a CNN appearance Friday morning, Bundy tried once again to clarify his position and argue for himself. And while his comments came close to a real apology, they then veered off course:
BUNDY: 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 don’t have freedom to say what we want. If I call — if I say negro or black boy or slave, I’m not — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offended, then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done then 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.
Bundy’s ranch standoff — over whether he can graze his cattle on federal land without paying a required fee — has become a rallying point for right-wing libertarians and militiamen. It’s also garnered support from Fox News and from some mainstream elected officials, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). After Bundy’s racist views came to light, those officials denounced them, though none went so far as to renounce his effort to stiff the government out of land dues.