Republican Lawmakers Backtrack on Bundy Support

After statements about slavery, Republicans back off their support for Nevada rancher.

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses outside his ranch house west of Mesquite, Nevada, on April 11, 2014.

Republican senators are distancing themselves from Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy after his controversial comments.

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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are condemning Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher embroiled in a land feud with the federal government for his comments to The New York Times that blacks might be “better off as slaves, picking cotton.”

"They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton,” Bundy told the Times, during an interview published Wednesday. “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?"

[OPINION: Cliven Bundy's an Old-Fashioned Racist – And He's Not Alone]

The story of Bundy's standoff with the federal government over land had initially emerged as a Republican rallying cry for a short time as conservative pundits and lawmakers alike spoke on his behalf. After his comments, Republicans who backed him are rushing to distance themselves from the rancher.

Bundy's comments to The New York Times riled up lawmakers on Capitol Hill including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who had previously been sympathetic to Bundy’s land use cause.

“His remarks on race are offensive, and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul said in a released statement.

[OPINION: Law and Order for Thee, Not for Me]

Paul was far from the only Republican senator admonishing Bundy for his comments. Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, initially called Bundy's standoff against the Bureau of Land Management “patriotic.” After Bundy made his comments, however, he condemned them as “appalling” and “racist.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took it a step further and called on all of the lawmakers in the Senate to speak out against Bundy no matter how they felt about the land use issue.

“This is not a game. It is the height of irresponsibility for any individual or entity in a position of power or influence to glorify or romanticize such a dangerous individual, and anyone who has done so should come to their senses and immediately condemn Bundy," Reid said in a statement. "For their part, national Republican leaders could help show a united front against this kind of hateful, dangerous extremism by publicly condemning Bundy."