Sean Hannity promoted a stubborn Nevada rancher as a right-wing martyr Wednesday night on his Fox News program.
The conservative pundit hosted rancher Cliven Bundy, who has threatened a “range war” over the roundup of more than 900 of his cattle from federal lands.
Bundy stopped paying a token fee in 1993 required of ranchers who graze livestock on public lands after he refused to accept new land-use rules to protect the threatened desert tortoise.
He said his family’s history of land use – stretching back to 1877 – trumps federal government authority, and armed supporters have trickled into the area to set up a possible showdown with authorities.
“We need to be the barrier between the oppressed and the tyrants,” said Ryan Payne, a Montana militia member who coordinates with other such groups as part of Operation Mutual Aid. “Expect to see a band of soldiers.”
A writer for the conservative Tea Party Tribune portrayed the situation in rather stark terms.
“Now just to make clear how the federal government feels about we the people, remember that this same federal government pays for the killing of human beings in the womb – we call it abortion – and this same federal government is willing to kill an adult human being Cliven Bundy over a desert tortoise which in reality may or may not even be endangered,” wrote contributor Jake Baker.
A ranger from the Bureau of Land Management shocked one of Bundy’s seven sons Wednesday with a Taser during a heated confrontation, and another ranger knocked the rancher’s sister to the ground shortly before that.
Another son was arrested over the weekend as he protested along state Route 170.
Hannity wondered why the federal government was so opposed to Bundy grazing his cattle without paying the required lease fee.
“This is public land, and it’s not being used, in my mind, and I’m not a rancher, (but) I would think the federal government might be thankful because you’re cutting the lawn for free, and they’re charging huge amounts of money, right, to let your cattle graze there with these fees,” Hannity said.
Bundy owes about $1 million in delinquent fees and fines for trespassing over the 21-year period since he stopped paying.
“This is arid southwestern desert, (and) there’s a renewable resource out here that can only be harvested by livestock, and what I do, my livestock eats off the brush and the grass – harvests it, prunes it – and it uses that forage to make an edible commodity for we the people of the United States, so what you get is a piece of meat on your table,” Bundy said. “Remember where it comes from. We turn this resource into a renewable – a usable commodity – good for man.”
Hannity put the dispute in simplistic terms for his viewers.
“When you graze your cattle there, you keep the price of meat down for the American consumer,” Hannity said.
“There’s a lot of people out there, now that they’re taking your cattle that are fearful that this is another Waco situation, (and) Ruby Ridge has come up in some articles,” Hannity said. “What do you mean by ‘range war’? How far are you willing to take this?”
Bundy demurred, but described himself as a victim of government overreach.
“The United States courts (have) ordered that the government can seize my cattle, but what they have done is they’ve seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, access to their land, and they’ve seized access to all the other rights of Clark County people that like to go hunting and fishing, they’ve closed all those things down, and we’re here to protest that action,” the rancher said. “We’re after freedom; we’re after some liberty.”
But Hannity repeated his questions, asking just how far Bundy was willing to take his protest.
“Cliven Bundy states – my statement to the American people (is), I’ll do whatever it takes to gain our liberties and freedom back,” the rancher vowed.
Watch this video posted online by Jim Browski: