Image: Controversial Nevada Rancher Sparks Backlash From Previous Supporters After Racist Comments
David Becker / Getty Images

TODAY   |  April 25, 2014

Rancher stands by racist remarks as support fades

A Nevada rancher, hailed by some as a hero, doubles down on controversial comments he made about African-Americans and slavery. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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>>> let us begin this half-hour are a nevada cattle rancher that became a hero to anti-government conservatives for resisting an attempt to remove his cattle from federal land . then he made some startling comments. and while some of his top supporters are now distancing themselves, that rancher is not backing down. here's nbc's mike taibbi .

>> reporter: clooichb bundy is not backing down, instead repeating his controversial comments. he became a hero to many anti-conservatives.

>> it's time to take the guns away from these bureaucrats.

>> reporter: bundy called it a range war , and with hundreds of supporters coming to his aid, it seemed that way when government agents gave up in attempting to seize his cattle that has been grazing on federal lands , even though he owes more than a million in grazing fees and fines.

>> i don't recognize the united states government as even existing.

>> reporter: this week, the right's new darling talked about race.

>> i want to tell you one more thing i know about the negros.

>> reporter: comments gol viral about africans he says he saw outside a housing project .

>> are they better off as slaves picking cotton, having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy ?

>> reporter: the fallout has been swift, the distance from hero to pariah traveled at the speed of the internet, starting with his major supporters. senator rand paul called the comments racist and offensive. nevada senator dean heller called them appalling. even sean hannity , among several conservative fox news commentators, who championed bundy's cause, expressed disgust.

>> i believe those comments are downright racist. they are repugnant.

>> reporter: keith rogers , who's followed bundy's case for years, says the rancher has one logical move.

>> i think cliven has to look inside himself and he might be a bigger man by saying i'm sorry.

>> reporter: the dispute isn't over about grazing his cattle without paying fees, but bundy's role as an unqualified anti-government hero is disappearing fast. for "today," mike taibbi , nbc news, los angeles .