(CNN) – What started out as a standoff over land rights may be turning into a controversy over race.
Racist comments from Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy – who earlier this month appeared to win a highly publicized standoff against federal authorities over his two-decade long illegal grazing of cattle on public land – are giving Democrats a new weapon to attack some top Republicans who earlier came to Bundy's defense.
And the controversial comments also call into question moves by Fox News and some conservative media that highlighted the story and painted Bundy as a hero in his battle against federal authorities.
Bundy, 67, won his standoff against federal rangers after armed militiamen came to his side. Even with the incident over, Bundy continued to talk to a dwindling crowd of media from his ranch, about 100 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The comments that sparked the latest controversy came this weekend when Bundy recalled to supporters about a time he drove by a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, according to a report from The New York Times.
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," Bundy said, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids – and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch – they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.
"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" Bundy continued. "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 life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
Thursday morning, hours after The New York Times story went viral, the Nevada Democratic Party put out a statement saying "These comments are reprehensible, and every Republican politician in the state of Nevada who tried to latch on to Cliven Bundy's newfound celebrity with TEA Partiers and the militia movement should be ashamed of their actions."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that "Bundy revealed himself to be a hateful racist. But by denigrating people who work hard and play by the rules while he mooches off public land he also revealed himself to be a hypocrite."Follow @Crossfire
We want you to weigh in: Harry Reid called supporters of Rancher Cliven Bundy “domestic terrorists.” Do you agree?