(CNN) – Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky acknowledged he made some mistakes during his speech at the historically black Howard University last week but largely defended his appearance, the first by a major Republican in nearly two decades.
At a Washington breakfast with reporters Wednesday, Paul said he was unfairly criticized by what he described as left-wing media, who argued the senator wrongly portrayed the history of African Americans switching to the Democratic Party.
In his speech last week, Paul said the transition happened during the Great Depression in the 1930s, arguing that African Americans left the GOP because they were struggling financially and weren't getting the "economic emancipation" they wanted from Republicans.
Paul visited the university in an attempt to change what he described as inaccurate perceptions of the GOP being racist.
"There's a perception that Republicans don't like people of color. They don't like black people, brown people or people of different colored skin. It's not true, but that's the perception we have to overcome. And the only way to overcome that is by showing up and saying over and over again it is not true," he said Wednesday at the breakfast, sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
His visit to the university came weeks after the GOP rolled out its plan to better connect with minority voters, including African Americans. The Republican National Committee will spend $10 million on staff members to communicate conservative principles in cities across the country, one of the many decisions it made following the party's major loss among minority voters in the presidential election.
Critics, however, blasted Paul last week for not talking about the so-called Southern Strategy, a tactic used by the GOP in the 60s and 70s to win over longtime Democrats who opposed the Civil Rights movement.
Paul argued Wednesday the Southern Strategy "cemented" the demographic change that had already taken place among African Americans. He also didn't bring it up, he said, because he didn't go to Howard to mention "the things that don't make us look so good in the Republican Party."
While the first-term senator considered his reception at the speech "very good," he got many negative reviews from students at the event.
"It wasn't an easy audience, but it was the beginning of a conversation," he said at the breakfast.
One student, however, praised Paul just for simply showing up.
"I think Rand Paul won everyone in the room over when he made the announcement that he was going to come and speak to Howard University students because we know throughout the years, the Republican Party has blatantly ignored and disrespected the African American community," Julian K. Lewis, a senior, told CNN's Jake Tapper. Lewis, though, acknowledged he largely disagreed with Paul's viewpoints.
Critics also hit Paul for fumbling to recall the name of former Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the first African American elected to the Senate by popular vote.
"Well I'm human. I forgot his name. I knew his name, but I forgot it. It wasn't like it was part of my speech and I forgot it," he said. "It was in an answer."
And he was criticized for asking the audience if they were aware the founders of the NAACP were Republicans. They audience loudly responded "yes."
Paul said Wednesday he was unfairly mocked for being presumptuous and argued the public at large probably doesn't know that part of history, which is why he was asking last week.
"In retrospect it sounds like it is a dumb question, but Republicans haven't been going to Howard for 20 years, and by going there, I did learn something-I learned that everyone there knows," he said.
Paul said he'll continue to make such outreach visits and pointed to his visit to the historically black Simmons College last week in Kentucky.
I'll keep trying. I don't give up easily," he said. "I'll keep trying."
Rand Paul boggles the mind with his distorted view of history. That he seems so willing to share such bunk is endearing, but like Sanford in SC, how can voters be so dumb as to vote for these nummies?
If this man is a "major Republican", we are doomed as a Party
Bland Paul is a slug just like his bigot father and most of the rest of the gop party of stupid voters !!!
it is abundantly clear that many on the left and many that are minorities thoroughly enjoy wallowing in their their hate, excuses, victimization, blaming others, etc. had they only expended all that energy towards productive goals, they'd be so much better off in life. oh well, to each his own. you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.
"There is NO allegation against Trayvon that would excuse away Zimmerman`s actions. "
Well Gregory, I am just wondering why the same wasn't said for David James.
@people state of IL, you are confusing Black voters with the backwoods southerners who keep voting with their bible and against most od the programs that help them.
Typical Republican doctrine. Tell them the Republican party is a party of tolerance and that it has changed its' policies to be more inclusive. It hasn't. You can't survive by pretending you're something you're not. Mitt Romney tried that.
Perhaps if Tea Partiers such as Paul would READ history instead of trying to REWRITE it, they might have a different view of the issues.
The GOP has to run from their record. What frustrates me is that they claim to be exemplifying Christian values. They are perhaps the reason Christianity is in decline in America. Because, many who don't know God, look to them as the example, and want no part of it.
Love does no wrong to its neighbor. Love is the greatest! Love your neighbor as yourself. Those are things that are missing in conservative Christian theology. They are the blind leading the blind.
one more republican slime. Get rid of these crazies. This country needs to pull together not apart. The repo party promotes hate, and confusion greed and intolerance.
Paul appeared so uncomfortable in his appearance at Howard that it made me feel uncomfortable watching it.
If the republicans cant get it, get them out of office they dont deserve to be representing any one! They are just not listining to the pepole that voted them in. impeach the tirants.
This man is a bad joke – calling the parents of Newtown's dead children a prop. What's he hiding in that mess on top of his head? Certainly not a brain, or even a heart.
just askin and jeffy, remember the party switch and the solid south? When President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act, the South overwhelmingly turned over to the Republicans. You accuse us of rewriting history? You don't even know it to begin with!! Come back and talk when you at least pass a high school level history class.
Considering his father, Ron Paul lacked the integrity to give Rosa Parks any respect during his 50 YEARS of government service, I find it shallow and hyprocritical for son Rand to pretend he cares about anyone except his billiionaire backers. It's time the Paul family realize we are not that easily duped into believing anything you say because you represent the worst of government! Give your speeches to the John Birch Society and the Tea Party because you are just a puppet, pulled by the strings of wealth. Please don't tell us anymore lies about how "big government" is the oppressor, because you are the government.
Seems like a reasonable visit to me. Like the article stated, the GOP is trying harder to reach out to nonwhite voters, hence the speech at a black university. Where's the controversy?