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Washington • Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, joined a chorus of Republicans on Thursday denouncing remarks by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy about race that could hurt efforts by the new folk hero and anti-government icon to rally supporters to his cause.

In a The New York Times story published Thursday, Bundy, whose standoff with Bureau of Land Management officials sparked a tea party-like rage against Washington, questioned whether blacks — "the Negro," Bundy said — were better off under slavery. Bundy said that black Americans "abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton."

Bishop, chairman of a House subcommittee over public lands, distanced himself from Bundy's comments and his actions and said the Nevada rancher had hurt himself by making such racist remarks.

"His comments are inaccurate and degrading, and I think they are sad," Bishop said in an interview. "Unless I am missing something, I don't think it had any relevance to the situation he has but the fact that he said them does not help his situation, does not help his case, does not help his credibility."

Before Thursday's comments surfaced, Bundy had become a luminary among those Americans frustrated with their government. Republicans, including some who had rallied to his cause, were quick to dismiss the comments.

Sen. Rand Paul, who had raised concerns about how the feds treat public lands and those who make their living off it, said in a statement that Bundy's "remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had called the armed militia that came to Bundy's defense "domestic terrorists," issued a statement saying Bundy had revealed himself to be a "hateful racist."

"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," Reid said.

Armed BLM officials had sought to round up some 500 cattle that Bundy had allowed to illegally graze on public lands in a court-ordered effort to reclaim the more than $1 million in fines and fees the rancher owed. Bundy's grazing permit was canceled in 1993. The BLM canceled the round up and released the cattle to quell the tension that had built up around the effort.

Lee Davidson contributed to this report.

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