Rancher Cliven Bundy poses for a picture outside his ranch house on April 11, 2014, west of Mesquite, Nevada. Bureau of Land Management officials are rounding up Cliven Bundy's cattle. He has been locked in a dispute with the BLM for a couple of decades over grazing rights. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Offering words of encouragement for a rancher leading an armed standoff against federal rangers turns out to be not so great of a political move—especially when the rancher in question muses publicly about the benefits of slavery.

Republicans—including possible 2016 candidate Rand Paul—are scrambling to distance themselves from defiant Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy after he made startling comments about slavery and African-Americans in a New York Times article published Wednesday night.

From the Times’ Adam Nagourney:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “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?” he asked. “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.”

Bundy had previously drawn support from some GOP lawmakers for his clash with the Bureau of Land Management.

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