All of the politicians who ended up in a kind of awkward situation today when conservative rancher hero Cliven Bundy turned out to be a huge racist should have listened to Glenn Beck. No, really. Beck posted a big "told you so" post to The Blaze on Thursday, noting that he was warning his viewers about Bundy's bona fides even before the New York Times quoted the rancher waxing nostalgic about slavery. Referencing a private conversation Beck had with Bundy recently, Beck said that their encounter "led to more questions than answers" about Bundy's supporters and beliefs.
In his Thursday piece, Beck did what some politicians haven't yet been able to: he strongly condemned Bundy's remarks on race as “degrading,” “disgusting,” and “offensive." He added:
“That shows you how unhinged from reality this guy is,” Glenn said. “You’ve got to distance yourself. You must know who you are standing next to at all times – with exactness. With exactness we will save our nation.”
So is Beck's vindicated retrospective on his Bundy skepticism justified by his record on the controversy? It is, more or less. Surprise! Take a look at this exchange between the two from an on-air interview earlier in April:
Essentially, Bundy is saying this conflict isn’t inherently about grazing fees or water rights, but that he ultimately does not recognize the lands to be federal and the United States government or the BLM do not have jurisdiction on the land.
“So I think this is very clarifying to people,” Glenn said.
“It’s not BLM land. It’s Nevada land,” Bundy said.
“That is a different point of view than everybody else that is a rancher that I know,” Glenn said.
Based on the conversation on the radio show, Bundy’s fundamental issue isn’t with an out of control government taking control of his personal land, but that he disagrees with how that land became federal land when Nevada was founded in 1864.
Beck then cautioned conservatives on jumping aboard the Bundy train, noting that he believed many of the militia members coming out to support the rancher in his land rights dispute might not be worth backing. He said on air:
“We did some research online with PsyID today, and found that there’s about 10 or 15 percent of the people who are talking about this online that are truly frightening. They don’t care what the facts are. They just want a fight.”
Granted, that's very different from a denouncement of the reasons why Bundy's fight appealed to Tea Party-type conservatives on the surface. Beck isn't saying that Bundy's points aren't valid. He's saying that Bundy's points don't match up to the reality of his situation, which should be a giant waving red flag. Saying that he understood many "decent" groups advocating for small government were supporting the rancher, Beck warned: "When I saw that video when [protesters] were lunging and jumping at the agents, I thought, ‘this is our side’s Occupy Wall Street.’ It’s happening all over again, and it will end the same way.” Beck went on to disparage Occupy Wall Street even more, because he is still Glenn Beck.
Beck's site wasn't entirely free from sympathetic takes on the Bundy situation, as Media Matters noted earlier. A report on the controversy from The Blaze breathlessly "played up" the fact that the federal agency confiscating Bundy's cattle were armed. And as Mother Jones reported, Beck's own characterization of the actions of those federal agents isn't entirely in line with the facts.
In any case, as The Week noted, Beck wasn't the only conservative urging Tea Partiers to be cautious about using Bundy as a symbol of the Good Fight against Big Government. Tucker Carlson said this on Fox News:
Sean Hannity, however, is an entirely different story. (UPDATE: Basically as soon as we posted this, Hannity condemned Bundy's remarks as "beyond repugnant," adding he was also angry that liberals "get a pass” for saying racist things).
I have a lot of sympathy for the Bundys. I think they were completely mistreated by the federal government. But I still think it's important to point out that this land does not belong to them and that's not a minor distinction, it's the essence of private property.