As part of Fox News’ eager coverage of the recent “range war” showdown over Cliven Bundy’s cattle grazing rights in Nevada, the network broadcast a segment from the scene Monday that was remarkable both for the reporters’ seeming embrace of the far-right antigovernment “Patriot” movement and for its subjects’ startling clarity on their strategy for confronting federal agents: using women as human shields.
Richard Mack, the erstwhile Arizona sheriff and longtime figure in the Patriot movement, was at the scene. He told Fox reporter William LaJeunesse that the people who gathered there to stop law enforcement from rounding up the illegally grazing cattle – which had grown to hundreds by the time the Bureau of Land Management caved in and returned many of the cattle – were prepared to lay their lives on the line in standing up to the government. Or more precisely:
We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they’re going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.
Mack’s radical Posse-Comitatus-based ideology, which claims that county sheriffs are the higest constitutional level of law enforcement, lines up nicely with Cliven Bundy’s antigovernment views. That explains why Mack has taken a lead role in helping promote Bundy’s cause in far-right media circles.
Monday’s Fox News segment, hosted by Gretchen Carlson, was also noteworthy for LaJeunesse’s characterization of the situation, which seemed to embrace the Patriot ideology:
And you know, it was those protesters and sympathizers, self-described Patriots, who provided Cliven Bundy the leverage he needed to get his cattle back, and to get the BLM to back off. Indeed, they were also backed up by many Second Amendment supporters, who were a well-armed militia, with assault rifles and handguns, who were prepared to respond to any assault or use of force, if you will, by BLM agents.
So you had the tensions mounting when these protesters went to I-15, closed down the road. When cowboys went down and tried to get the cattle back, they surrounded these BLM agents, confronting them, who were guarding the cattle inside holding pens. Now, above and around were marksmen in sniper positions. A retired Arizona sheriff worried about what was going to happen next.
LaJeunesse also explained to his audience: “Bundy says that he doesn’t recognize federal authority here, that his grazing rights predate and preclude federal authority in this area.”
However, he neglected to mention that Bundy has tested those claims in multiple court cases and has lost at every step, leading to the court order authorizing BLM to round up his trespassing cattle on federal lands.