Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy said Friday that he doesn’t believe his remarks on blacks and slavery were “offensive,” and if other people take them that way, it means civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t do his job.
Bundy was pressed by CNN’s Chris Cuomo to acknowledge that he offended people when he mused about whether blacks were “better off as slaves, picking cotton” than “under government subsidy,” which was first highlighted by the New York Times.
In response, Bundy said King wouldn’t have wanted the media to demonize him over those remarks and invoked the example of Rosa Parks to show he supported civil rights.
“I thought about Rosa Park taking her seat at the front of the bus … What Reverend King wanted was that she could sit anywhere in the bus and nobody would say anything about it,” Bundy said. “You and I can sit anywhere in the bus. That’s what he wanted. That’s what I want.”
“That’s what he was after, it’s not a prejudice thing but make us equal,” he added.
“I understand that Martin Luther King’s message was one of peace and freedom,” Cuomo said in a testy exchange. “When you suggest that you were wondering if blacks were better off as slaves, that’s the opposite of freedom and very offensive to people. And I think you probably know that.”
“Maybe I sinned and maybe I need to ask forgiveness … but you know when you talk about prejudice, we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think and are feeling,” Bundy eventually conceded.
“If I say ‘negro’ or ‘black boy’ or ‘slave,’ I’m not — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive (sic) then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet,” he added.
Watch the exchange below, courtesy of CNN:
This post has been updated, including to clarify the phrasing of Bundy’s quote about Martin Luther King Jr.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.