When racist statements made by Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher and conservative hero-of-the-month, hit the airwaves, his Republican boosters abandoned him like rats fleeing a sinking ship. But he has at least one stalwart supporter—his African-American bodyguard, Jason Bullock.
“I would take a bullet for that man if need be,” Bullock told CNN. “I look up to him like I do my own grandfather. I believe in his cause and after having met Mr. Bundy a few times, I have a really good feel about him and I’m a good judge of character. He’s shown me nothing but hospitality and treats me as his own family.”
Bullock may be the only Black person in America willing to give Bundy a pass on his insensitive remarks, including Bundy’s suggestion that Blacks were government moochers who were better off in slavery.
Propelled by robust Fox News coverage, Bundy shot into the public spotlight following his armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management rangers, who, with court order in hand, tried to confiscate his 500 cattle. Bundy owed the federal government some $1.1 million in fees for illegally grazing his herd on public land for more than 20 years, according to The New York Times.
The defiant 67-year-old became a hero of the right-wing’s fight against government overreach—until his unfiltered remarks about African Americans became public.
Bundy recalled passing public housing projects in North Las Vegas and seeing Blacks sitting around with “nothing to do.”
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy told his supporters, as reported by the Times in an April 24 article. “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’s most prominent political supporters immediately began to distance themselves.
Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who has previously hailed Bundy as a “patriot,” said he “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way,” according to Heller spokesman Chandler Smith.
Libertarian and potential presidential nominee Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was quick to follow, saying in a statement: “His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”
Democrats also spoke out against Bundy, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who had previously called Bundy and his supporters “domestic terrorists.”
“Today, Bundy revealed himself to be a hateful racist,” Reid said in an April 24 statement. “But by denigrating people who work hard and play by the rules while he mooches off public land he also revealed himself to be a hypocrite.”
Reid also said it was irresponsible for Republican leaders to “romanticize such a dangerous individual” and called for a public condemnation of Bundy’s remarks.
Some prominent Black Republicans agreed, saying Bundy’s statements—and the somewhat tepid GOP response—further hardens minorities’ apathy towards the party.
“It undermines the broader, more important goals to rebrand and reestablish a conversation with a community that looks suspiciously upon most of the things you say,” Michael Steele, the former and first African-American Republican National Committee chairman, told The Washington Post.
Crystal Wright, a conservative commentator, who runs the blog ConservativeBlackChick.com, wrote in a CNN opinion piece that Republicans should not have embraced Bundy, and his defiant disregard for the U.S. Constitution, in the first place and decried those that continue to defend them.
“I don't know what’s more offensive: rancher Cliven Bundy telling Blacks they’d be better off as slaves picking cotton or conservatives who continue to defend him,” she wrote.
“The entire Bundy affair just makes the Republican Party look bad…. We have old White men saying offensive things to women and minorities, and I’m tired of it,” she added. “At a time when the GOP needs to bring more minorities into our tent—along with women for that matter—embracing fools like Bundy doesn’t help and certainly will put us farther down the path of losing in 2016.”