Following weeks of campaigning to turn Nevada welfare rancher Cliven Bundy into an American folk hero for anti-government conservatives, Sean Hannity responded to Bundy's recent racist comments, calling them “deplorable” but maintaining that the real issue is government overreach.
After Bundy and his armed supporters threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials attempting to execute court orders pertaining to his decades-long trespasses on federal land, Hannity and others in the right-wing media rallied around the rancher and fanned the flames of a stand-off between the parties. Hannity hosted the rancher on his radio program and Fox News show multiple times, praising the rancher for being “willing to fight” the federal government.
Bundy has said he doesn't recognize the federal government's existence and issued threats of violence to government authorities intent on holding him accountable for breaking the law, but it was a racist tirade to the press and supporters -- in which Bundy speculated that black Americans might be “better off as slaves, picking cotton” rather than “being under government subsidy” -- that finally caused Hannity to distance himself somewhat from the rancher.
Caught between a choice of denouncing or embracing a man he's spent countless hours building up as a freedom-loving David entrenched in a battle against the Goliath of federal government, Hannity instead chose to reject and deflect -- arguing on his prime time news show that though Bundy's comments were racist, bigoted, and “beyond disturbing,” the real issue is that government is out of control. From the show:
HANNITY: Allow me to make myself abundantly clear. I believe those comments are downright racist, they are repugnant, they are bigoted and it's beyond disturbing. I find those comments to be deplorable and I think it's extremely unfortunate that Cliven Bundy holds those views. Now while I supported the Bundy Ranch as they took a stand against the Bureau of Land Management, I was absolutely dismayed and frankly disappointed after reading the article and then hearing the commentary, however, I also want to say this. The ranch standoff that took place out in Nevada was not about a man named Cliven Bundy. At the heart of this issue was my belief that our government is simply out of control. To me this was about a federal agency's dangerous response to a situation that could have resulted in a catastrophe and that means people dying and being shot, kind of comparable to what we saw in Waco, Texas. It was about hundreds of armed federal agents and snipers and sharp shooters surrounding a family and not because that family posed a threat to anyone else, but because their cattle happened to be grazing on the wrong patch of grass and they were eating government grass. In other words, when I believe government officials, when they over step their line, I think it's my job to call them on it and make no mistake about it, I'll continue to do just that.