A week after defending controversial Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy against federal agencies, Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is denouncing his comments about African-Americans.
In a New York Times interview, Bundy suggested “the Negro” was “better off as slaves.”
“His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul said in a statement to WFPL.
The fight between Bundy and the Interior Department has gained national attention. It has also sparked a debate about the rights of landowners versus the powers of the federal government.
Recently, Bundy and his family chased off rangers who were trying to seize over 500 cattle.
The officials were following court order that found Bundy’s herd had been illegally grazing on public land for the past two decades.
But Bundy’s comments about race have put Paul and his minority voter outreach efforts in a difficult spot.
From The NY Times:
“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.”
Paul was one of the first lawmakers to weigh-in on the Bundy controversy, saying the “federal government shouldn’t violate the law.” While urging both sides to tone down their rhetoric and asking the Bundy family to act non-violently, Paul’s libertarian leaning criticized federal agencies for their heavy-handedness.
As a likely presidential candidate, however, Paul is also trying to court black voters in an effort to broaden the GOP base.
National Democrats argue Paul’s outreach cannot be taken seriously given his embrace of Bundy’s cause and failure to come out against the remarks sooner.
“I’m sorry, senator but your outrage should have been instant,” DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee said in a news release. “He praised slavery. You needed time to gather your thoughts? This would be bad enough, except it’s not the first time in recent months that the GOP has rushed to defend a blatant racist.”