Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Bundy a "hateful racist" after the New York Times on Thursday quoted the rancher using the word "Negro" and suggesting blacks were better off as slaves.
"I used to live in North Las Vegas, and it is home to some of the hardest-working people I have ever met," said Reid, referring to comments Bundy reportedly made characterizing blacks in the city who receive public assistance as lazy.
Reid, who was one of the first high-profile politicians to criticize Bundy over his fight with the federal government regarding cattle grazing rights, also called him a "hypocrite" for demanding privileges not afforded other ranchers.
"Cliven Bundy has spent decades profiting off government land while refusing to pay the same fair use fees as his fellow ranchers," the lawmaker said.
Reid chided Republicans who have supported Bundy's cause for using their influence to "glorify or romanticize such a dangerous individual."
"National Republican leaders could help show a united front against this kind of hateful, dangerous extremism by publicly condemning Bundy," he said.
Nevada's other senator, Republican Dean Heller, who previously called Bundy and his supporters "patriots," quickly disavowed him Thursday.
"Senator Heller completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way," said Heller spokesman Chandler Smith.
"Bundy's comments are completely beyond the pale," Priebus said.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, who, along with her conservative network, have been out front covering Bundy's dispute with the federal government, also slammed the rancher. "Let me make this plain: I condemn what Cliven Bundy said about African-Americans," Van Susteren said on her website "Gretawire."
The Times reported that Bundy, during a Saturday event attended by supporters and one reporter, said the following:
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Bundy then recalled driving past a public-housing development in North Las Vegas and that "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."
The Bureau of Land Management says Bundy has trespassed on federal lands in southern Nevada with his cattle since the 1990s and owes more than $1 million in back grazing fees.
The bureau earlier this month seized about 400 head of cattle but released the animals days later in an attempt to ease escalating tensions after angry protesters — many armed with guns — gathered at his ranch in his support.
Bundy says he doesn't recognize federal authority of the land and insists it belongs to Nevada.
The bureau says it's trying to resolving the two-decade-old dispute "administratively and judicially."