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Cliven Bundy under fire for racial comments

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April 18, 2014: Rancher Cliven Bundy speaks at a protest camp near Bunkerville, Nev. (AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The New York Times reported this morning that Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy made some inflammatory comments on race to a group of supporters -- and now the man who rallied hundreds of states' rights supporters to his side in his recent battle against federal officials is taking heat from both sides. 

According to the Times, Bundy said of black people: “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 and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy.” 

The full video, posted by liberal media advocacy group Media Matters, is here:

The Bundy Ranch responded on Twitter by posting a link to his Facebook page:

He repeated the charge later on the Peter Schiff Show when asked to clarify his remarks. “I’m wondering are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were (when) they were slaves?” Bundy later said at a press conference he was just posing a "question" about whether the black community is "better off." 

"Are they better off, are they happier than they was in the South?" he said.

Some Republicans like Sens. Dean Heller and Rand Paul – who had embraced Bundy during the ranch standoff -- distanced themselves from the rancher.

But Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, hammered Republicans for responding too slowly – or not at all -- to the comments.

Meanwhile Texas Gov. Rick Perry headed to CBS' "This Morning,” and when given the chance to denounce Bundy’s remarks, initially ducked the issue, instead talking about states battling each other over economic spoils.

Perry's office later said in a statement to Fox News: "Gov. Perry has read Mr. Bundy's comments and he thinks they are reprehensible and disagrees with them in the strongest possible way." 

MSNBC guests talked about the controversy, saying that based on the new video, past support of Bundy is a liability for Republicans.

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, who has covered the Bundy Ranch story, tweeted:

The problem with turning ordinary people into champions of a cause is that there’s often little time for background research on the person being spotlighted. There’s a lesson here: politicians have to be careful who they sidled up to.

Lauren Ashburn joined the network in 2013 and currently serves as a Washington-based contributor for FOX News Channel (FNC). On MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz, Ashburn contributes commentary on the state of the news media shaping current events, their role in politics, cultures, business, and tech. Click here for more information on Lauren Ashburn