Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Dean Heller on Thursday both denounced as “offensive” and “racist” Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s recent comments about African-Americans.
“His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul said in a statement, according to Business Insider.
Paul previously called Bundy a "patriot" for illegally using federal land. The Wire has a whole list of Republicans who previously supported Bundy but are now backing away very quickly. I have a call out to Washington State Representative Matt Shea, who traveled to Nevada to support Cliven Bundy. I'll let you know if he calls me back.
At least one conservative radio show host is trying to defend Bundy, though: Dana Loesch of The Dana Show at first doubted that Bundy even said those comments in that context. Then she attempted a half-assed explanation:
First, to take the quote at face value it’s odd and sounds offensive. You’re talking about government overreach and you go into this story? Secondly, I hope no one is surprised that an old man rancher isn’t media trained to express himself perfectly.
In a terse update, Loesch linked to video of Bundy actually saying those things in context, adding that it "was an awful remark." But to dismiss Bundy as simply lacking in "media training" is a symbol of exactly what's wrong with the modern Republican Party. Without bigots, they don't have a large enough base to win national elections. So they have to tolerate and foster those bigots, but they also have to keep the bigots out of the spotlight, or at least train them to use media-acceptable code-words (like "thugs" and "urban" and so on) to spread their hate. It is very hard for a Republican politician to run away from a racist, because those racists put food on their table.
This Bundy implosion is a worst-case scenario for many Republicans—especially Senator Paul, who's got a long history of palling around with white supremacists: Bundy is a Republican who says exactly what he thinks, without couching his language in softer, more socially acceptable terms. They were quick to hand him the spotlight, and now they're struggling to deal with the consequences.