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. John Wilson

    As one who suffers from MS and is confined to a wheelchair i am deeply offended by the comments made by this moron in regards to theThe Americans with Disabiliies Act which by the way was proposed by an enlightened Repubican President George Bush. To suggest that private business would in fact be able to make these decisions is both naieve and ludicrious. This guy is an idiot.

    May 20, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Paul

    Rand Paul is against discrimination but will fight for the right of racist to express their racism and will fight any law that prohibits discrimination. Yea he is a Republican.

    May 20, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. joe in VA

    Bravo! IMHO the words "racist" and "racism" are used any time someone (or some group) finds it convenient and beneficial to themselves to do so; not when a true discriminatory act takes place. There's even a term for it now: "Playing the race card", and it happens all to often. Unfortunately, it's overuse of the words will ultimately dilute the severity of what they are trying to express.

    It's about time someone stood their ground and lived up to what they actually believe and what's outlined in the Constitution. I wish we had politicians like this in VA!

    May 20, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. get real

    A "gotcha" moment? Really? This is a very simple question. Do you think the federal government should protect it's citizens against discrimination based on race or disability? That is not a "gotcha". Mr. Paul just doesn't want to answer the question because then we would know what a crazy jerk he is really is!

    May 20, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  5. Kenton

    Mr. Paul plays in right field.

    May 20, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. Larry

    Paul is a flake and a loose cannon.

    Wake up Kentucky!

    May 20, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Jack

    As a Conservative minded Independent, here is where I dsiagree with all the conservatives and the liberals. Not one of them have ever stated that the rights were given came with a number of responsibilites.

    Generations since the WW II, have all demanded and still demand thier rights, but they never discuss thier responsibilities.

    These responsibilities were never spelled out, but they are inheritly there. And unfortunately conservative that are yelling the loudest right now sure do not appear to take personal responsibility for much, only what suits them.

    May 20, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    "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."
    Simly put, Mr. Paul still thinks that parts of our society need to be segregated. I watched this interview this morning and he was dodging the question. He really didn't have an answer for Rachel Maddow last night when she interviewed him. Conway is going to be Paul hands down.

    May 20, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "How do you regulate greed?"

    Simple. Make it cost more to let your greed cause you to act in an unethical manner than it does to follow the rules and act ethically.

    May 20, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    This man said he wants the Constitution adhered to as written. That excludes women and blacks from voting and taking away the rigths of many citizens.
    While that may be an an extremist tak on what he meant, it is what he has said.
    Most fo his views and those of his father, will hurt the lower income and minority members of our society. While I don"t think this is their intent, it is a concequence of thier views and a reason to be leary of either of them.

    May 20, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. Eric

    Sorry, but this is a last ditch attempt to make a strong candidate stumble by painting him with the racism brush.

    Cries of "racism" are literally the trump card that liberals keep up their sleeves when they have clearly been beaten otherwise.

    May 20, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. dan

    TEAPARTY anyone??????

    May 20, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. Pat

    This man wants to take this country back 60 yrs. if not more. Oh, he wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare. How many folks over 62 will vote for this man if they are thinking?

    May 20, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. Ken

    And this is a surprise from a Tea Party man????

    This clarifies his statement "We are going to take back our country."

    May 20, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. Tam

    Just let him keep talking. Give him enough rope.....

    May 20, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  16. bill486

    He just did himself in.

    May 20, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  17. Austrian School

    I think the main point he was trying to make was that using the commerce clause for the Civil Rights Act was a mistake. This is not racism, but a deep constitutional question. The 14th amendment would have been a better route.

    May 20, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. Marty, FL

    Rand Paul apparently thinks private businesses have a right to discriminate against minorities and even persons with disabilities by his willful disregard of the Civil Rights Act from Congress that has long established protections for these Americans.

    Rand's positions sadly reveal his antiquated extremes that do not belong in our government in the 21st Century.

    May 20, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  19. Wendy

    I watched this last night. Anyone (with a brain) listening to that interview has to agree that Rachel Maddow did an incredible job of showing this nut for what he is. The problem with Paul and his Tea Party sheep is that what they stand for is, by its very nature contradictory, and that's what came come across loud and clear during the interview. While they will always have a right to voice their opinions in MY America, Tea Partiers are basically anarchists whose idealogy is flawed, and doomed to faily, by its own contradiction. No matter what nonsense you spew (and there was plenty nonsense spewed last night), the fact is you can't have it both ways. Incredible Interview, Rachel ! As always, you hit the nail right on the head.

    May 20, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  20. Andrew

    It's a shame that we have come so far to protect those who have been taken advantage of and here comes someone who wants to try and take this country back to dark times when discrimination ran crazy. If everything was left up to the States you would still have segregation, inequality for minorities, women and those with disabilities. It took the Federal Government to abolish it; if it was up to the States it would have continued depending on the State you lived in and the region you lived in. His views are shame full to all who believe in equality.

    May 20, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. Barbara

    Could this Tea Pary be over before it begins!!

    May 20, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. Pamela

    Why should we be surprised about the Tea Party darling candidate not being a believer in civil rights for everyone at all times? It is obvious that Rand Paul would prefer to pick and choose those individuals who are worthy of constitutional protection. Very disheatening to think that so many pp in Kentucky will brush off those comments and vote for him. To paraphrase a Maya Angelou quote – when someone tells you who they are–believe them. Rand Paul's comments about civil rights and the rights of the disabled tell us who he is.

    May 20, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. EBC

    It appears Rand Paul's TRUE COLORS are showing true. People don't realize that when they speak in public, THEY ARE RECORDED. Rand's comments regarding the Civil Rights is DISGRACEFUL and shows his TRUE feelings on the matter.

    May 20, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Jonathan

    And the media steps up to the plate again to attack those that threaten their hold on power.

    May 20, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. Guy M. Long III

    Tea Party wants to take our country back !!!!!!!

    YEAH – BACK TO 1963.

    May 20, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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