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. britney

    After reading the comments by the people on this story i"ve lost almost all faith in the intelligence and common sense of my fellow Americans.

    For as much as left wing people want to talk about "acceptance" they sure don"t seem to have much acceptance when it comes to anyone with a different view than them.

    His point is rather clear yet you want to make it into something it is not. It is simple. You shouldn"t be able to tell a person how they have to run their private business. It is that simple>

    May 20, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  2. sanitycheck

    I think Paul and the Tea Party are glossing over the fact that history shows us many states in our union are still racist and NEED the laws that are discussed in this article, to keep them from allowing discrimination to thrive in their states. We will not allow that in this country, period. If they don't like it, they can go live in another country. And frankly, I hope they will.

    May 20, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. christi

    I just want to know if the poodle on top of his head is why he has this type of whackjob view about things...

    May 20, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |

    HE IS TALKING ABOUT FREEDOM....Get It...Freedom........Not The Obama Gang Telling You What To Think, Say, Act, Walk, etc. That Is Called LIBERAL INSANITY,

    May 20, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. jim atmadison

    I smell toast burning.

    May 20, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. Failed Politics and A Wink!!!

    This Guy is Palin in DRAG!!!

    May 20, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Pat-San Jose CA

    Some of you think he just supports free speech (laudable). But there is a big difference – Paul believes *businesses* should have the right to discriminate on the basis of race etc. because *businesses* have the right of free speech. In his world, there would again be signs that say Whites Only or No Women Allowed. And if you frequent those businesses, your money will be used to discriminate against serving and hiring your fellow Americans. It would set our country back 50 years.

    May 20, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Jared

    why do u all not understand what he meant when he said it. his views are that to in power the individual and the state's. the constitution was written to protect and to give rights to individuals and states. the government is not your baby sitter. wake up and read the constitution and don't knock those that strive to defend it. what he said is not racist nor is it discrimination. he said that its the states job to make these laws and that it is the right of the individual owners to chose who and how they serve. (is it not your right to decide who comes into to your house?)...... GET OFF OF THE RACE CARD AND OPEN YOUR EYES.... STOP LETTING THE GOVERNMENT JUST TAKE AS THEY PLEASE. you have fewer rights today then you did any other time of this country's time.

    May 20, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Jerry Blaine

    Ever get the feeling that we're regressing back to the 1850s?

    May 20, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. 8 years of the Bush Error = How many years of recession and unemployment?

    So, Rand who will bring water to the fellow in the wheelchair that cannot drink from the standard height fountain?

    Will you lift him out of wheelchair and put him on the toilet and then put him back in his wheelchair, because it will not fit in a standard stall?

    Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo...

    May 20, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. John

    I want a federal law banning smoking in all enclosed places, and prohibiting smoking within 50 feet of an enclosed place.

    I hope all you people criticizing Rand Paul for his views will support my proposed law. If not, why are you so in support of laws that force people to accomodate all races and disabilities?

    I don't agree with Mr. Paul. I think there are times when the government has to step in because too many people in this country fail to consider the welfare of the people around them. But if you scream about the law I proposed, please don't be a hypocrite and criticize Mr. Paul for being in opposition to the Civil Rights act and the Disabilities act.

    May 20, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. normajean

    I think i would be uncomfortable if this man wins , he seems to go off in all directions and on a recent interview he seemed to talk around in circles. What he was for one minute he talked around the next and frankly didn't seem to make any sense at all. i don"t trust his judgement.

    May 20, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Brian

    I agree with him. I think discrimination from the government should be illegal, since we all pay taxes. But I do think private individuals have the right to discriminate. I believe in the rights of the individual, something liberals know nothing about.

    May 20, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. cry uncle

    Where does Mr. Paul stand on Plessy v. Fergusson? Does he agree with the decision? His prior statements about private businesses having unfettered rights seem to support this antedilluvian Supreme Court ruling.

    I'd like to see an interviewer ask him about it. AND if they're doing their job, how about some cogent follow-up questions?

    May 20, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. reACTIONarry

    RE: He is defending the rights of idiots to be idiots.

    True, and idiots do have SOME right to be idiots. But not when it hurts others by making them second class citizens. Ron/Rand Paul have a very narrow, unrealistic and ultimatly HARMFUL political philosophy.

    May 20, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    How many people who defend this guy were allowed to just show up at his "victory" at that "private" club?If anyone chooses to defend this guy then you obviasly have never been told to get out because you do not look,act, or think like "we" do.How many of you supprters of this man would defend him if it went against you??What if you could not help him get ellectid if he decided you were not one of his "people"?Walk through a area that your a minority in,have them tell you to get out,see how you respond.

    May 20, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. Roberto


    Please, before you post a comment, have a third grade teacher edit your spelling and grammar. I mean (and I certainly do not want to sound discriminatory towards people that cannot spell or use punctuation or capitalization–when required–or other correct forms of the written English word) that when you post comments, such as yours, and label individuals with names and monikers that are clearly derogatory...AT LEAST SPELL CORRECTLY! Otherwise, you come across as a "morran" yourself. Sheesh!

    May 20, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. Wisconsinite

    We've already had this fight in the 1960s and GOOD Americans won! I invite all of you knuckle-dragging racists who want to go back and fight that fight again to LEAVE MY COUNTRY!!!

    May 20, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  19. Ben

    So if a restaurant decided to stop serving blacks, I'm guessing someone will pick up on it and the restaurant will be publicly blackballed. Which means that either the place goes bankrupt or they change their policies. I agree that people should have the right to say and act like idiots, and they will be judged by the public and summarily ridiculed like they should be.

    May 20, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  20. Jeff in Royersford

    "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."

    It is 2010 right? Rand Paul's position on this is ludicrous.

    May 20, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    As a reminder to everyone who has been holding up the Constitution in this discussion, the thirteen States refused to ratify the document as written until the Rights enumerated in the original Bill of Rights was "amended" to the document. Once those rights were added, ratification by the states followed.
    Since then, the constitution has been "amended" 17 times. Unfortunately those Amendments often do not often carry the enforcement regulations associated with them. That is why we needed the Volstead Act to enforce Prohibition, and why we needed the Civil Rights Act to enforce the 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments. By extension, the ADA can also be considered part of the enforcement of the 14th Amendment in its Due Process clause. I won't even go into Miranda here which supports the 5th and 6th Amendments, as Republicans are opposed to Miranda until they are subpoenaed!

    May 20, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  22. William

    I listened to the entire Maddow interview. Rand Paul is not a racist because of his stated views. He is, however, very naive. Some ideas look good on paper, but don't work in reality. Communism looks good on paper, but it goes against human nature. Capitalism looks perfect on paper, but greed has to have regulations.

    It sounds good constitutionally to say that private businesses can do whatever they want, and the free market will decide winners and losers. But to deny service due entirely to race is to deny "the pursuit of happiness"; which is counter to the Declaration of Independence.

    Paul is probably a decent person, but a little too naive.

    May 20, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  23. Tim

    We already allow racist speech. Geez, the ACLU defended the KKK years ago to fight for their rights to free speech. So, the Civil Rights Act has not exactly been an obstacle there, and Paul has no reason to associate the two.

    May 20, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  24. Drew Williams

    Libertarians like the father-son Pauls are Constitutional fundamentalists, as wrong-headed and potentially dangerous as religious fundamentalists. What they don't seem to understand is that they, too, are mere interpreters of a document written centuries ago; proclaiming their interpretations to be the legitimate one doesn't make it so.

    May 20, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  25. Earl in Ms

    I think it's pure desperation on the Democratic party's part because unlike Palin, McCain, and other Republicans they are coming up against somebody who is hopefully not going to give up, I am black and I say go Rand Paul please take back our country from these cut throats.

    May 20, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14