May 20th, 2010
12:00 PM ET
13 years ago

Paul takes heat for civil rights comments

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Paul is facing fire for comments on the Civil Rights Act."](CNN) - Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway is putting the heat on GOP rival Rand Paul over Paul's recent comments regarding the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Paul - the Tea Party favorite who easily beat Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the state's May 18 Senate primary - repeatedly dodged questions in recent media interviews about whether he thinks parts of the landmark legislation amount to a constitutional overreach.

An interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal last month highlighted Paul's controversial views during which he said: "I don't like the idea of telling private business owners-I abhor racism-I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time I do believe in private ownership. But I think there should be absolutely no discrimination on anything that gets any public funding and that's most of what the Civil Rights Act was about to my mind."

Following his primary victory on Tuesday, Paul was again questioned over his views regarding the legislation on National Public Radio and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. In response to questions, Paul said he supports the 46-year old measure except for the provisions that outlaw private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race.

While stressing that he is opposed to discrimination in any form, Paul suggested the measure runs up against individuals' First Amendment and property rights.

"I think what's important in this debate is not getting into any specific 'gotcha' on this, but asking the question 'What about freedom of speech?' Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking? I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things that freedom requires," he said.

He also said, "[I]f you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant, even though the owner of the restaurant says, 'Well, no. We don't want to have guns in here.' The bar says we don't want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each other. Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?"

Conway said the statements are indicative of Paul's "narrow political philosophy that has dangerous consequences for working families, veterans, students, the disabled, and those without a voice in the halls of power."

The Democratic National committee is also putting the heat on Paul, sending several e-mails to reporters Thursday morning highlighting the quotes.

In a subsequent statement Thursday Paul made clear he does not believe the Civil Rights Act should be repealed.

Paul also took issue with the American with Disabilities Act - the 1990 measure that afforded the same rights to individuals with disabilities as those who are protected by the Civil Rights Act.

"I think a lot of things could be handled locally," he told NPR of the legislation. "For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions."

Paul is a first time political candidate and son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Paul's victory levied a direct blow to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who tapped Grayson for the party nomination last year. McConnell and other GOP leaders in Washington, however, were quick to line up behind Paul after his win in a show of party unity.

Paul will be a guest on The Situation Room Thursday at 5 p.m. ET.

Filed under: 2010 • Jack Conway • Kentucky • Popular Posts • Rand Paul
soundoff (340 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    And the fool is going to continue to put his foot in his foul mouth. I hope he loses his agg in Nov. American cannot go backwards and he and folk like sarah plain will do that.

    May 20, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  2. Franklin

    Ask a white dude any question involving a race that is not his own and any answer he gives will be turned against him in some way!

    May 20, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. David

    Rand Paul just closed the lid on the Tea Party Movement.

    There is no room for racism in government therefore there is no room for Rand Paul. Considering his father's past involvement with a controversial newsletter this should be no surprise really.

    May 20, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Bob

    He's absolutely right. Property owners and businesses should be able to do business with who they please. It would be a bad business practice to exclude people, but it should be their right. Congress has been overstepping their bounds for a long time.

    May 20, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. Bob from Philly

    Mr. Paul I have two words then a question: " Blooming idiot", and what do you plan to do after November?

    Folks, do yourself a favor, and visit to have your eyes truly opened regarding conservative hypocricy.

    May 20, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  6. becky - Las Vegas

    Strike one: aligning with the woefully misguided tea party.
    Strike two: stupid comments about civil rights

    Shall we go for three, Rand, and just hand the election to your opponent now?

    May 20, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    most of you are all idiots... look at his actual quotes.. not what CNN is trying to portray him as... he is saying... if a restaurant owner wants to deny serving someone for ANY issue it is their right since the business is privately owned, the government should not force them to serve everybody. Consider, for example, if ALL businesses were run this way and could not turn anyone down for fear of being labeled "racial discrimination"

    May 20, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. Geoffrey

    Could Paul have come off worse? Dissembling and refusing to answer questions strraight up, with his head recoiled and twisted 3/4 from the camera, like he was physically trying to dodge the questions. Rachel was amazingly patient and courteous, yet persistent. Since he brought up 19th Century Boston, I would ask this – If he lived in 1854, given his "sovereign property owner" theory, would he have supported the Dred Scott Decision? Given his theory, of private property, could a slave owner beat, maim, rape, or kill his slaves at will, given ("as abhorrent as racism is to me personally") that they were legally held property? Just curious. But let's not get too theoretical. How about "sovereign property" today? Can my neighbor use his property any way he sees fit, even in a way detrimental to the general good of his neighbors (build a 1/4 acre toxin waste dump, turn it into a brothal, make the house into a block buster bomb, "just in case")? Paul doesn't believe in equl access to housing and services. Does Paul even believe in zoning laws?

    May 20, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. James

    His analogy fails because there is nothing discriminatory about banning guns from your establishment. The rule applies to everyone regardless of race, religion, or cultural differences. Can you really say this rule discriminates against gun owners in the same way that the Jim Crow laws discriminated against black people? Seriously? You can leave a gun at home.

    The government should uphold a standard of fairness in our country for the good of all its citizens.

    You have to wonder - If he believes business owners should have the right to run their business as they see fit, how does he feel about womens rights in the workplace, or worker protections and unions?

    Just because business owners CAN do the right and decent thing, doesn't mean they will. There is a big difference between idealism and reality.

    May 20, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. RF

    Mr. Paul's ideology is a flawed as Ann Rand's books! Hopefully the Tea party will be exposed for the bigoted narrow minded unrealistic group of people they truly are! Take back the country, yeah back to the stone age!

    May 20, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  11. David

    Toughlove – how about we all agree to get rid of that "tough" part and just be...well...loving. 🙂

    May 20, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  12. Walter

    And thus the liberal smear campaign begins, dragging yet another opponent through a wash of lies. HAVE YOU DEMOCRATS NO HONOR?

    Oh, my bad, you don't have any honor, as you've proven many times in the past.

    May 20, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  13. Gary, Wilkesboro NC

    How hard is it to say "Racism is horrible"? The fact that he dodged the question repeatedly was not only a serious faux pas but one of those moments you just want to reach through the screen, grab the person by his throat, and shake him. Paul has a great education, why is he sounding like he received his degree through a mail order catalog?

    May 20, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  14. Dennis

    Paul is really a libertarian. Read up on some history on who their leaders were and the extreme position they take when it comes to law and order and civil rights. Unless you are not a woman, veteran, cop, black, disabled, retired or make under $250, away, run away.

    May 20, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  15. bill

    message for my friends in kentucky.YOU GET WHAT YOU VOTE FOR.GOOD LUCK WITH THIS RACIEST PAUL.

    May 20, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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