After right-wing folk hero Cliven Bundy was caught on camera delivering a racist tirade, Media Matters looks back at the conservative media figures who propelled him into the national spotlight.
Right-Wing Folk Hero Bundy Caught In Racist Tirade
NY Times: Bundy Wondered If Black People Might Be “Better Off As Slaves.” Bundy went on a racist rant during a recent press conference, as reported by The New York Times:
Mr. Bundy's standoff with federal rangers -- propelled into the national spotlight in part by steady coverage by Fox News -- has highlighted sharp divisions over the power of the federal government and the rights of landowners in places like this desert stretch of Nevada, where resentment of Washington and its sprawling ownership of Western land has long run deep.
He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.
“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.” [The New York Times, 4/23/14]
Here Are His Biggest Fans Who Propelled Him Onto The National Stage
Hannity Promoted Bundy So Loudly, Bundy Calls Him a “Hero.” Fox's Sean Hannity obsessively promoted Bundy's standoff with BLM, earning a public thank-you from the rancher during an April 21 appearance on 9-11 truther Alex Jones' conspiracy radio show. While Bundy said the men disagreed about whether armed militias are the first or last line of defense against government overreach, he said of Hannity: “He is my hero and he supported me and this movement and I appreciate and love him for it. Support him 100 percent.” For his part, Jones said, “I want to commend Sean Hannity because he has been really bad on a lot of issues but he has a lot of courage doing the right thing here. So I appreciate him being supportive of this.” [The Alex Jones Show, 4/21/14, via Media Matters]
Hannity Praised Bundy Because He's “Willing To Fight.” Hannity invited Bundy onto the April 11 edition of his radio program, where he told Bundy that federal agents have “drawn the wrong line in the sand here,” praising the rancher because he “like[s] anybody that's willing to fight.” Hannity stoked fears of violence, adding, “I'm just afraid of what this government is capable of doing. I mean we saw what happened in Waco,” to which Bundy responded, “We have to have faith that America will stand. You know we would never won any of these wars from the Revolutionary War on up if we didn't have faith and courage and fighting for something.” Hannity later concluded, “The government needs to stand down” because “this is only a symptom of how one person, standing up to the government, I'm telling you, [it is] my opinion that this crisis could come to a head, and lives could be lost.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 4/11/14, via Media Matters]
Hannity Bragged About His Role Promoting Bundy And Escalating Standoff. On the April 15 edition of Hannity, the Fox host bragged about his role in escalating the standoff between Bundy and federal officers and floated the possibility that the federal government might kill the rancher:
HANNITY: I would even argue a little bit that the media coverage that myself and some other people have given to this case played a part in this because none of it made sense.
HANNITY: I would assume that as Cliven's son, you want to protect your dad. What are your plans if, in fact, they come late in the night?
HANNITY: Do you worry that, in fact, they may kill either your dad or somebody in your family? [Fox News, Hannity, 4/15/14]
Alex Jones: Bundy Is “Like Paul Revere,” Making His Stand. On the April 9 edition of Jones' conspiracy theory radio program, Jones interviewed Bundy and told him, “So your bottom line, like Paul Revere, you're making your stand, you're telling folks we're being overrun by an out of control tyranny.” Later, Jones speculated that if the Bureau of Land Management auctioned off Bundy's confiscated cattle, it “could turn into 1776 very quickly”:
JONES: This could be how the shot heard round the world happens in this case or others that are happening. If they ever fire on innocent peaceful people trying to take stolen cattle and act like the mercenaries they are, this could turn into 1776 very quickly.
BUNDY: Yeah, and we're totally disgusted with this type of government and I don't think we the people are going to stand it, and I'm not going to stand it, I'm going to stand as long as it takes and do whatever it takes to get this --
JONES: Incredible, well we will get updates in the next few days, sir, to find out what unfolds [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 4/9/14, via Media Matters]
Jones: “Cliven Bundy: Domestic Patriot.” Jones' Infowars.com posited on April 19 that Bundy is a “domestic patriot” and wrote on April 10 that Bundy is the “last man standing” in the fight against the government's attempt to “enslave us in an [United Nations] Agenda 21 future where we have no property and no rights”:
Government is using environmentalism to confuse the public and the Left/Right paradigm to divide the public so they can enslave us in an Agenda 21 future where we have no property and no rights. The last rancher -- “the last man standing” -- across the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Ocean, Cliven Bundy, is in a fight for his rights and your rights against a federal bureaucracy that's out of control. [Infowars, 4/10/14, 4/19/14]
NRO's Williamson: Like Bundy, “The Law Was Against Mohandas Gandhi Too.” National Review Online's Kevin Williamson defended Bundy in an April 15 post titled “The Case for a Little Sedition,” writing:
Of course the law is against Cliven Bundy. How could it be otherwise? The law was against Mohandas Gandhi, too, when he was tried for sedition; Mr. Gandhi himself habitually was among the first to acknowledge that fact, refusing to offer a defense in his sedition case and arguing that the judge had no choice but to resign, in protest of the perfectly legal injustice unfolding in his courtroom, or to sentence him to the harshest sentence possible, there being no extenuating circumstances for Mr. Gandhi's intentional violation of the law.
Surely not every inch of that 87 percent of Nevada under the absentee-landlordship of the federal government is critical to the national interest. Perhaps Mr. Bundy would like to buy some land where he can graze his cattle.
Prudential measures do not solve questions of principle. So where does that leave us with our judgment of the Nevada insurrection? Perhaps with an understanding that while Mr. Bundy's stand should not be construed as a general template for civic action, it is nonetheless the case that, in measured doses, a little sedition is an excellent thing. [National Review Online, 4/15/14, via Talking Points Memo, 4/24/14]
Fox's Napolitano: Bundy Is A “Patriotic, Heroic American.” Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared on the April 15 edition of Fox & Friends and called Bundy a “patriotic, heroic American”:
NAPOLITANO: I don't know who the bad guys are. I don't know if it's the actual young troops on the ground. It's probably their civilian superiors. Look, there's a couple of problems here. One is that the BLM is not a military or a law-enforcement entity. I was shocked to see that they even have troops dressed in camouflage and with M-16s. It really looked like they were fighting a war rather than -- against a foreign invader, rather than enforcing a judgment against an American. In this case a patriotic, heroic American. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/15/14]
Napolitano: Bundy Comes Off Looking Like “An American Hero.” During the April 18 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Napolitano said that Bundy “comes off looking like an American hero” because of the BLM's attempt to seize his cattle:
NAPOLITANO: But when the federal government is so heavy-handed --
O'REILLY: I know, and it's because of this Tea Party thing --
NAPOLITANO: That they lose the PR war --
O'REILLY: They got killed.
NAPOLITANO: This guy comes off looking like an American hero even though he lost the case. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/18/14]
O'Reilly: Bundy “Probably Is A Hero In Many People's Eyes Because He's Standing Up Against This Colossus.” During his discussion with Napolitano, Bill O'Reilly acknowledged that the law is not on Bundy's side, but added:
O'REILLY: And he probably is a hero in many people's eyes because he's standing up against this colossus that a lot of Americans think is oppressive. But here's the fact. The federal government sent more force in to handle Cliven Bundy's cows than they did to Ukraine. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/18/14]
Dana Loesch: Bundy “Has Paid Fees” And What Federal Government Is Doing “Is Ridiculous And It Needs To Stop.” Conservative radio host Dana Loesch appeared on the April 10 edition of Fox's The Kelly File to spin Bundy's refusal to pay federal grazing fees:
LOESCH: Well, he has paid fees, though, Megyn. He's paid fees to Nevada county, and I think what's at dispute here is BLM's management of this land.
MEGYN KELLY (host): The feds, meaning.
LOESCH: I mean, if they're going to come in and claim to be good stewards of the land and that this land is going to be beneficial to the American public, well, the American public isn't benefitting from it. He's claiming that he has title to an easement on this land, which, you know, it's all -- the devil's in the details. And maybe he does, and that's something that perhaps he and BLM can work out.
But they've approached this, Megyn, heavy-handed from get-go. And I'll tell you this. If these cattle -- BLM called them “trespass cattle.” If these cattle were in this country -- if they were people and they were here illegally, the Department of Justice would be running guns to them, and the Department of Homeland Security would be driving by with free government phones and EBT cards. But, now that they're cattle, they're actually rounding them up and killing them.
He had thousands of head of cattle that's been reduced dramatically. He is the last rancher in this county because the Bureau of Land Management has used these heavy-handed tactics and has run off absolutely everybody, even those who had a valid claim to easement on this land. What they're doing is ridiculous, and it needs to stop. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 4/10/14]
Loesch: “BLM Should Either Reimburse Bundy ... Or Leave Him Alone.” The next day, Loesch tweeted:
Fox's Starnes Warns “Americans Will Not Allow The Constitution To Be Trampled.” In April 12 tweets, Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes warned that the Obama administration should pay close attention to the battle over Bundy's ranch, characterizing the Bundy family and their supporters as defending the Constitution: