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. Grog in Ohio

    Paul is trying to walk a thin line. He's trying to be "reasonable" while at the same time towing the Tea Party line, which is essentially bald-faced racism. Good luck to him with that.

    May 20, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. Video Guy

    Its no wonder that the Tea Party and Sara, Rush loves this guy. He has no business near the Senate.

    May 20, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. TangledThorns

    I see Rand Paul's point, especially in relation to free speech. If you applies the Civil Rights Act to Free Speech then we'd be living in a different America and that would not be a good thing.

    Politically it's bad for Rand. He should just say Civil Rights Act is a good thing and move on.

    May 20, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Dogmatically fundamentalist adherence to a broken ideology that leads to wilfull ignorance and a mindlessly insensate approach to the practical realities of race relations, particulalry in light of all the information and dialogue available (including science, such as socilogical studies), and a stubborn insistence that the world bend to the way your ideology says it should work, instead of accepting that you ideology should probably be adjusted to account for reality...that can be just as racist as an affirmative, active hatred and scheme to discriminate. This kind of zombie-like approach to solving the problems we face as a society is what makes Paul and other right wing kooks like him so freekin dangerous.

    BTW, Goldwater and his ilk made the same arguments in 1964 that Paul is making now. It's either 100% nutjobbery or some half-cocked mix of nutjobbery and thinly veiled attempts to hide racist beliefs behind an ideological curtain of zealot-speak rhetoric.

    May 20, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. PalmReader

    Rand is also against the Disabilities Act. Wonder if Palin knew this before she endorsed him? Or perhaps she isn't as concerned with the needs of Downs Syndrome children as much as she has lead us to believe she is?

    May 20, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. Ray E. (Georgia)

    When there is no news to report you make the "News" That is what is happening here. No wonder the News Papers are dying.

    May 20, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  7. Frankie

    Sarah Palin endorsed this guy because she said he was right on social issues. So, what is his stance on Roe v. Wade. Wow that says alot for her also. He also wants to repeal the patriot act, Americans for disability act and who knows what else. He is a Libertarian, they really don't care much about social issues, just taxes.

    May 20, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  8. Frank in valparaiso indiana

    Yeah, just stay where you belong. Gotta love them Pauls, really caring for the common man. Why does he live in Kentucky though, don't the blinders get to him?

    May 20, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  9. Anthony Beasley

    This is simple: He is for segregation. He has no concept of what the Civil Rights Act is all about. He's running for the Senate and he's trying to quietly promote America going back to a time where there are segregated buildings, bathrooms, restaurants and everything else. Call it what you want, but that's what it is.

    May 20, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  10. This guy will be toast come November...

    Looks like the perfect TEA Party candidate – that is Trash Espousing Americans candidate. I don't know why all these people are celebrating like they won the November election. You just won to run for November fool, in reality you have won nothing. You were elected by 20% of the Republican base to represent the Republican Party thats all and that is nothing come November.

    May 20, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. CRt

    Paul is absolutely right. The owner of a private business should have the right to decide who they will or won't conduct business with. The government has no right to compel a private business to do business with another person, regardless of how benevolent their intent is. If you are ignorant enough to decide to not do business with people that are not of your race, that's your right. You will most likely go out of business, but the government has no right to compel best business practices either. Freedom can result in ugliness and beauty, but without it their can be no beauty.

    May 20, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. ephraim

    Rand Paul is a polite, but political novice. Add to it he has a weird and distorted combination of libertarian views like other Tea Partiers making him appealing as a dramatic message to some, but in a real election against another party's candidate in a state election makes him an unlikely win.

    Also, the idea that local individuals could handle discrimination, or disabilities, meaning in one town you have disability bathrooms, in another you don't, or in one town African Americans or Hispanics can
    eat dinner or sit on a bus with whites, but in another they can't... This
    is insane, the legality of it, the humanity of it, everything is all wrong.

    Its like a trip back intime 100 years or worse. People are clearly frustrated, incumbents need to seek shelter or get with the program. But candidates like these, that are asked only LOCAL issue questions not national questions are a very bad direction for this country.

    May 20, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  13. CSM

    I listened to the NPR interview and watched the Maddow interview. In both cases, Rand Paul cannot answer simple yes/no questions. He's tantamount to taking the country back to pre-1960. Period.

    May 20, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  14. Bob

    Jack Conway is just another idiot (party makes no difference to me) who supports amnesty for up to 20 million ILLEGAL aliens (already did 8 mllion). Also, 4 million Illegal aliens enter the U.S. annually so in 10 years there will be ANOTHER 40 millon Jack Conway will want to give amnesty so they take your jobs. Me I am not a Republican but anyone who votes against amnesty gets my vote. I hope he supports E-Verify. The tea party thing is not my deal and I think the fact that this guy listens to what we the majority want is why he will win. I will vote for any candidate regardless of party who is against amnesty.

    May 20, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |

    I feel as if America won on Primary night. Sestak is a good DEM. Paul is a descent conservative.........
    Here's the catch though, when it comes down to the issues, only the candidates w/ substance will last.
    Mr. Paul's view on part 10 of the 10 part civil rights act is very questionable.

    May 20, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. jbakaregit

    Folks, this is what the tea partiers mean when they say, "I want my country back." Anybody who's been paying attention since 1/20/2009 (the tea party main media events started shortly after) would see that.

    Minorities, people with disabilities, women, etc. are all on his list for discrimination.

    Conway 2010.

    May 20, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  17. MichaelK

    The problem with the whole 'private business' thing is that they do not operate 'on an island".
    Public roads run past their store as does the sidewalk. They use common utilities and business establishments have a certain cache with law enforcement (raise a fuss about being cheated in a business. When the cops come, who do they believe? Who is escorted from premises?),

    There is a whole laundry list of laws businesses must adhere to in order to operate in a civilized society. Singling out this one for critical analysis is suspect.

    May 20, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  18. Bill from Philly

    Lame stream media desperately to make an issue out of nothing.

    May 20, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  19. A Guy

    This guy is pretty much out of his mind, and so is his father.

    May 20, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  20. Dale

    Paul should be congratulated for sticking his foot in his mouth so early in the political process. I'm glad he believe people with disabilities "should be allowed." Evidently they're not allowed to have jobs if they can't get to the second floor, but by golly, according to Paul they should be "allowed." To do what? He's not saying because he can't defend his thinking.

    Paul's argument equating a gunman with a person of color in a restaurant is another example of a really poor choosing of words. Seems his main issue is that he doesn't like "uppity" people. Stay in your place and let the straight, white guys take care of business if you know what's good for you is Paul's motto.

    May 20, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  21. Robcokc

    Is anyone really surprised that this "Tea Party" Republican is a hater? I for one am not. Just as surely as Pailin is a hater as well and just a person that is using her instant fame to make money. Not to long from now people will say "Sarah who?"

    May 20, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. Bill from Philly

    Mainstream media desperately trying to make an issue out of nothing.

    May 20, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. new-idjit-on-the BLOCK

    A new Idiot in the block!

    May 20, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  24. Rick

    "States' rights" was a code word for racism and segregation in the Jim Crow South in the '50s and '60s. Rand Paul should read a little history before he opens his mouth. This guy and his father are typical of Libertarians. Their bumper-sticker philosophy sounds great when you first hear it, but when you try to apply their thinking to real-world problems, the philosophy falls apart.

    May 20, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. Tony in Maine

    I'll give Paul credit for having the courage to say what most conservatives are thinking.

    I couldn't disagree more with his ideas. I really think Kentucky will have a Democratic senator come next year.

    Now, if the Nevada eyespinner who wants to make chickens legal tender keeps yammering, Harry Reid will be back. With any luck, the Democrats can stop kissing the feet of Snowe and Collins.

    May 20, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
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