Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Tuesday, April 15, 2014 | 10:20 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, April 15, 2014 | 11:57 a.m.
Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins apologized today to his fellow commissioners and Utahns after inflammatory remarks he made last week to supporters of embattled rancher Cliven Bundy.
Darin Bushman, a Piute County, Utah, commissioner, said in a Facebook post last week that Collins had called him to warn any Utahns coming with guns to help Bundy, a Clark County rancher, “better have funeral plans.” The post also said Collins referred to Utahns as inbred and used several expletives. Media outlets widely reported on the post.
On Tuesday, Collins walked back those comments, acknowledging his habit of “speaking from the hip.” Still, he said his words to Bushman had been twisted and that he never meant to insult anyone.
“I certainly did not say the things that were sent out to the media on Facebook and other places,” Collins said. “I certainly did not say them the way they were interpreted and or restated, rewritten or what have you.”
Collins said his statements were meant to dissuade the Utah commissioner and any other supporters from coming to Bundy’s ranch with weapons. After ending his phone call with the commissioner last week, Collins said he alerted the Clark County Sheriff and the Mesquite chief of police.
“That’s been my whole purpose is to not have that escalated conflict,” Collins said. “I in no way ever insulted all of you people from Utah or Utahns.”
Militiamen from across the country, including Utah, descended last week on Bundy’s ranch – which is situated in Collins’ county commission district – angered after hearing about the federal Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to seize Bundy’s cattle, which the BLM said had been trespassing on federal land without proper grazing permits for more than 20 years.
Bundy had stopped paying grazing fees because he believes the land is owned by the state and that he has a right to use it for his cattle.
On Saturday, the BLM released all 400 head of Bundy’s cattle that had been rounded up after facing hundreds of states’ rights protesters and armed militia members.
The agency cited “escalating tensions” in calling off the roundup.
Collins had tweeted that he had been in contact with Bundy daily throughout last week’s confrontation and would like to see cattle on the disputed land “for ever.”
Collins closed his 10-minute public statement by turning to his fellow commissioners and delivering a heartfelt address.
“I’ve been in a downward spiral for a couple of years, I admit it. I’ve done some rude things and some not pleasant things,” he said. “Whether it’s sarcasm or trying to turn pain into humor ... I have not treated my colleagues the way that I should. So today, my apology is to you all.”