Rancher Cliven Bundy sits on a swing at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014.
Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy: Are blacks ‘Better off as slaves’?

Updated

For weeks, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has been in a standoff with the U.S. government over his refusal to pay fees he owes for grazing his cattle on federal land. As Bundy has denounced what he sees as runaway federal power, many conservatives have rallied to his side.

But on Thursday the focus on Bundy centered around race after The New York Times published a report in which Bundy shared his views on “the Negro,” wondering whether blacks were “better off as slaves” and lamenting that modern-day African-Americans “never learned how to pick cotton.”

Bundy resurfaced those remarks Thursday during a press conference in which he focused on race issues and asked whether “Negros” were happier today than in the past. 

“The question is, are they slaves the way they are, where they live as slaves to the charity and government-subsidized homes, and are they slaves when their daughters are having abortions and their sons are in the prisons?” Bundy said after being asked directly if he believed African-Americans would be better off as slaves.  

Bundy described his experiences driving through Las Vegas and seeing African-Americans living in what he described as government-subsidized homes, adding that he could see “sadness” on their faces.

The rancher spoke briefly about liberty, an issue he believes is at the core of his ongoing dispute with officials from the Bureau of Land Management.

“I am happy to see [African-Americans] be able to have the freedoms and liberty and be able to feel like they’re Americans and be able, be able to move and talk and choose a religion,” he said. “And what I’m really excited about is the fact that our Constitution was formed that those – that all of us people could have some liberty and freedom and be able to feel, exercise our conscience.”

Bundy’s original comments were captured in a video obtained by Media Matters.

Watch:

Bundy sought to clarify those remarks during an interview on the Peter Schiff radio show before his press conference Thursday, repeatedly insisting he was not asserting that African-Americans were better off as slaves, only that he was “wondering” about the issue. 

During a separate appearance on Alex Jones’s radio show, Bundy pushed back further, saying he hoped The New York Times would retract the statement. According to audio of the interview posted by Adrian Chen, Bundy said the comments were not “exactly what I said,” specifically denying he talked about “picking cotton.”

Asked if he would like The Times to correct their story, Bundy replied that he would “appreciate” that accusing the paper of creating a “racist type thing” when “I’m not a racist.” 

Presumably Bundy was unaware of the video of the conference, in which he does talk about picking cotton. 

For more on the story, here’s NBC’s Kasie Hunt on NewsNation:

MSNBC Live with Tamron Hall , 4/24/14, 12:00 PM ET

Bundy loses some conservative support

After recent racist remarks from Cliven Bundy, past supporters such as Rand Paul and Dean Heller are backing away. NBC’s Kasie Hunt joins NewsNation to discuss Bundy and all the political headlines of the day.

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy: Are blacks 'Better off as slaves'?

Updated