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. vernis robertson

    Spoking like a true Tea Bagger. Won't bring back slavery , have colors enter through the back and leave out the back , whites only water fountains, colored water fountain. This is why we don't need this guy no were near the senate , he needs to go back in the hole he crowd out of.

    May 20, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  2. Dumbasrocks [R]s

    It's Kentucky, afterall. Its Ron Paul's son, afterall. Its the Tea Party, afterall.

    Is it really a surprise that racist and regressive positions are being taken?

    Wake up. These people want to drag this country back into the Dark Ages, and they just about did it....before the abhorrent Bush left office.

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

    That he thinks it should be legal for private businesses to discriminate on the basis of race is not nearly as bad as the fact that he is too ashamed of his opinion to state it directly. I would have had much more respect for the guy if he had the cojones to say 'yes I believe that and here's why' than the epic slimy dodging he did on Maddow. I really had no opinion on the guy and gave him the benefit of the doubt until I heard that.

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

    Henry, the libertarian–I think you are misguided. Congress has certain powers to regulate individual conduct. What do you think the 13th amendment is for?

    May 20, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  5. Henry

    Rand Paul - the Grand Dragon of the Tea Klux Klan!

    May 20, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  6. RTB

    Rand Paul is about as qualified to be representing the good people of Kentucky as a fried egg.

    Another weirdo coming out of the defunct Republican Party turned "Tea Party". Kentucky deserves better.

    May 20, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  7. Texas Doc

    Typical teabagger wingnut. Makes racist remarks to fire up his racist/anti-America tea bagger supporters and then when he's called on it he comes up with same lame spin on what he 'meant' to say. These people are bad for America and are kiling the GOP. Wake up people, the Tea Party is not the answer.

    May 20, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. A.B.

    Rand Paul is the poster child for the Tea Party. This movement was established after Barack Obama's victory and inauguration as U.S. President. The main purpose of the Tea Party is to actively oppose President Obama and his policies. The Birthers are part of this movement. The impetus of the Tea Party and the Birthers is racism, pure and simple. These people do not want to see a African American man as U.S. President and do not want to see the economic and social progress of African Americans. These things threaten people who harbor racial hatred towards African Americans.

    May 20, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. Louis

    I am so very glad that Rachel Maddow nailed him last night. Powerful!

    May 20, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. Don

    These views should not be a suprise for anyone that has followed the tea party movement over the past year or two

    May 20, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. Jason

    All this guy is saying is that the Federal Govenment is way oversized and needs to stay out of individual rights. If you don't agree with that you are a socialist and don't need to be in my country. The Federal Government has gotten way to involved in telling people how to think and what to do. That is not freedom, that is socialism. If you can't see that you have been hood-winked.

    May 20, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  12. Top Hat

    I don't read anything racist in Mr. Paul's stance and I believe him to be a fair-minded man, but I feel that he is wrong in thinking that the state has no right in the protection of society... and whether he knows it or not, that is what his stance leads to. People stopped being lynched because the state intervened – not from the kindness of the mob.

    May 20, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. RIchard

    If Mr. Paul thinks a business has every right to discriminate based on race, gender, etc., then surely he would agree that the state has every right to deny a business permit based on that business's discriminatory tactics.

    May 20, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. Greg

    Boy oh boy... The media sure has waited for the opportune moment to jump all over this candidate. NPR and MSNBC showed remarkable restraint up to now. I guess they'll do there best to brand any Republican as racist from this point on. The ignorance of all those who eat this up blows my mind.

    May 20, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  15. Pure American

    Yes Fay, this guy is the "moran" with no brain and an "oppurtunist." I think your grammar speaks volumes for who is the ignorant one! Why don't you try to listen to what is being said rather than letting CNN dictate what is being said. They guy does not associate with racists, however, he also doesn't believe that government should be intruding into (wait, hang onto this BIG word) "PRIVATE" business.

    He makes sense. I do not condone racism or segregation or anything of the sorts. I used to go dancing and one thing that always made me frustrated, was all of the cigarette smoke that filled the club. I never thought that the club should be mandated to stop allowing its customers the freedom of smoking. Instead, I would tend to go to those clubs that didn't have the smoke filled atmosphere.

    We all have choices. If a business is doing something you don't care for, take your money somewhere else. This applies to ALL aspects of PRIVATE business. Bottome-line is is that most businesses want your money. If enough people start to leave that business, they change their practices. This has much better results than any government mandate.

    Even someone like you should be able to pick this simple concept up.

    May 20, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. Luis

    This guy belong in Arizona whith Brewer and Arpayo.
    Need to create their own state not in Arizona but next to the KKK

    May 20, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  17. Dave

    Surely all who entered comments in this thread...........can see that our government is gradually taking away our freedoms. By governments I mean all forms of governments. It is not just federal........its state.......and its local. I have land. I can't just build the house I want. In some places you have to get approval for the color you want to paint from the government. As we move away from the freedoms given to us through the constitution.................each time we loose a little freedom. Regardless of your political stripe...........when do you think we should at some point begin to more erosion of our freedoms? Do we allow a majority to take away a freedom? The idea of individual freedoms was that the majority could not take them away. It is not an easy slope.............and there are many tough decisions along the way. either decide to live in freedom and draw the line at some point.............OR...........eventually you become a "subject of the leader". It would be good to see some discussion regarding topics like this.............rather then just stating your position in a very harsh way. I think treating other people harshly with voice or written on paper should be outlawed. After all it offends. It can be said to another race and become racial. I think it is so bad we should outlaw it. By law we must all be polite to each other. Surely you all must agree with that?

    May 20, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. crispy crist

    I am certainly missing a critical piece of information here. Why start poking around something which has been cemented in our nations fabric as a means of easing the transition from 400 years of slavery and racism? I need Mr. Paul to give a concrete example of exactly why we shouldnt strictly enforce laws against racism.

    I suspect where there is smoke, there is always fire... we need to be careful before we burn down 40 years of racial progress with this new conservative "take back america" ideology. Is it not their goal to "take back" their country from us browner-skinned folks? Segregated laws in Arizona, 25% of the country think Obama is a muslim and / or call him "Husein" to emphasize his differences from them, 15% still think his Hawaii birth certificate is a fraud.

    Racism is still here, it has only learned to survive and transform like all roaches and viruses. Is this not its new face?

    May 20, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  19. tito the great

    well, this guys, paul, is just as stupid as his father. THANKS FOR YOUR COMMENTS BIG JEREK!!!!!!

    May 20, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  20. Gregoire

    @ Doug, while I disagree with some of what you say, I completely respect your opinion and statements. You have provided the ONLY reasonable and intelligent argument I've read on these CNN comment boards. There is no sense in staking a claim to any ideological absolute. The vast majority of us fall somewhere slightly left or right of center on any issue... the whole bell curve theory. And there's a reason for that... the best way forward is almost always found somewhere close to the middle. Thank you for your polite insight. I recognize Rand Paul's rights to his stance, we need to make room for the opinions of all, but a solution to Constitutional protections is necessarily going to be a well though-out response that caters to all sides. Some government control should be allowed. But I would challenge your assertion that, simply because something was "long ago recognized" as an appropriate application of government, does not make it the absolute answer for the future.

    May 20, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  21. TEH the Conservative

    Good job Rand Paul!! This is just a typical case of Democrats losing their "foot-hold" in Congress. Democrats are Racist from the start and they will always be the first to scream Racism. Anything a Conservative does is considered Racism by the democrats. I have never seen such a bunch of wimps as the current administration.

    May 20, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. Ron , West Coast

    I saw the Rachel Maddow program wednesday evening when she interviewed Rand Paul . He stated that he did not condone rascism in any form, and then went on to say that if he could, he would change the Civil Rights Act so that discrimination could still take place in private venues such as the private country club he held his victory speech in on Tuesday night ! ..... He and praised his teabagger constituency ( folks who are ashamed to admit that they are overtly racist republicans, with the same racist views as Rand Paul ) for his and their victory over the established republican candidate endorsed by Mitch McConnell and Dick Cheney.

    May 20, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. CindySanFrancisco

    What part of "all men are created equal" does this so called Constitutionalist not understand? I saw the interview and he would avoid Rachel Maddow's question. Would not answer it directly. He looked just like a babbling idiot. It was hard to watch.

    May 20, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. crispy crist

    I am certainly missing a critical piece of information here. Why start poking around something which has been cemented in our nations fabric as a means of easing the transition from 400 years of slavery and racism?

    I suspect where there is smoke, there is always fire... we need to be careful before we burn down 40 years of racial progress with this new conservative "take back america" ideology.

    Racism is still here, it has only learned to survive and transform like all roaches and viruses. Is this not its new face?

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

    I am not here to defend of attach Rand.
    An aquaintance was expanding his machine shop, a good thing in a bad economy I hope you all agree, adding metal press machines. To place the sheet metal you have to stand and move sheets into the press to get all the parts in correctly.
    The safety laws require that these machines have 2 buttons above 6 feet high and wide enough apart to ensure the 2 hands are 'safe' before the press functions. Then you stand on one foot and use the other foot on the control. This job, for the larger parts he makes, require both standing.
    Government laws required him to add wheel chair access to not only the new machines but to retrofit the ones that have been there for 40 years. Even though a wheel chair bound person could not do this specific job within Government safety regulations.
    Sometime local common sense would be less a burden on a struggling American economy.

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