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. cardog

    You can remove the racist from the KKK, but you can never remove the KKK from the racist. Rand Paul is what he is and it's now up to the people of Kentucky to tell him to take a hike off a short pier.
    This is another example of the candidates the Tea Party will be putting forth and supporting.
    Everyone affiliated with the Tea Party keeps denying their true feelings no matter how much truth about them is put out there. Ron Paul is a Libertarian kook and now the apple that did not fall to far away from the tree, shows his true colors as well.

    May 20, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  2. John in OH

    Rand just does not understand. Yes there are private businesses but their profiatbility is largely due to public funding. Roads, lights, public television spectrum to advertise on. Without some kind of federal infastructure people would be paying tolls everytime they traveled to another town or neighborhood. This would limit their traveling radius and taking away from businesses that people would want to travel, to but can't due to private roads. But this is probaly an exciting vision of America that Rand would love to see realized, he could celebrate it at his country club.

    "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."

    What happens when the first floor bathroom is out of order? Are you going to carry the person upstairs? Thinking things through is a positive trait, start doing it.

    And on the issue of guns, that was a terrible example you gave. Name one public building that you can carry a licensed firearm into. School? No.. Fed/State/Local gov. building or parks? No.. In fact the only building you can carry a gun into is a private one that does not expressly disallow it.

    This is going to be an easy win for the Dems.

    May 20, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  3. Cindy

    To 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"

    Just the opposite. In fact he is standing up for EVERYONES rights. He has made it clear that his views are on the side civil rights, but that from a constitutional standpoint parts of that great legislation go against the fabric of freedom.

    Sorry you only saw his comments from your rose color glasses. We all need to LISTEN to both sides of an argument and reflect on what's being said. That way we won't throw the baby out with the bath water.

    May 20, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. skorpeo

    it seems to me his argument ("While stressing that he is opposed to discrimination in any form, Paul suggested the measure runs up against individuals' First Amendment and property rights") is something very similar to what the pro-choicers say regarding abortion; "i am personally against abortion, but i think it's the person's right to choose on their own". and we all know how much the repubs like that argument....!

    May 20, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. generaljones

    What a surprise. A teabagger stumbling all over himself trying to justify his racism as rationalism. The true colors shine through. This new darling of the republican party is a reflection of where the entire party stands. One white nation under one white god. Didn't we already go through this with David Duke and George Wallace?

    May 20, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  6. Steve

    I watched this last night and feel Rand Paul handled himself brilliantly! He is against discrimination and against infringement of private proprty and private enterprises. Great Job!

    May 20, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  7. tony

    There is no need for Obama to go to Kentucky. Let Paul run a race on his own. People want a senator with his own agenda, instead of just running against the other party. We don't need more Republicans for that. Republicans in Washington are doing that already. More Republicans will be counterproductive. They are known to cut taxes while spend just much money as Democrats. Our national debt is over 10 trillion already. The last three Republican presidents were responsible for 8 trillion of that. We can't afford more Republicans.

    May 20, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. Captain Awesome

    I'll dumb this down for all the liberals out there. Basically, this is a Constitutional argument: How far can government go to regulate Free Speech? Rand Paul is taking the Libertarian stance on this by saying that essentially, the government doesn't have the right to tell people to not be racists. It's your right to be an ignorant, backwards racist if you want to be. If you listen closely, RP stated he doesn't like discrimination of any kind. But the media is predictably blowing it out of proportion, and trying to create a scandal where there is none since the media will take every opportunity to scandalize Republicans going into the November elections.

    May 20, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. jay

    This is what we call political suicide. The tea party really picked a winner with this one.

    May 20, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. Go Away Left Wingnut liberals

    Why, oh why does everything that disagrees with the left wing nuts have to come down to the person disagreeing being racist????? Are you democRATs REALLY that scared??? I can hardly wait until November.

    May 20, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  11. roguey

    While we agree that the results of the civil rights act were good, we can also agree that the methods used to get there could be unconstitutional. Same goes for Roe vs Wade. Probably unconstitutional but still good legislation.

    May 20, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  12. McCain-in-4

    Did I hear Paul correctly ... he equated employees with property? I thought we fought quite uncivilly against that notion.

    May 20, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. malcolm in St Louis

    He also wants the US to go back to gold std. that will really stop economic growth. Yeah the government prints too much money in order to support its spending but the going back to the gold standard is not the answer.

    Tea partiers are simpletons. They give one line responses to to complex issues.

    Hopefully Kentucky has enough rational voters to show him the door in November.

    May 20, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. RJ

    GOP teaches family values but practices adultery. Rand Paul believes in non-discrimination but wants to practice segregation.

    Anymore doubt what tea baggers is all about? And they say that the AZ immigration law that they came up with is not about racism.

    May 20, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. Frank

    Are the commentors on this article all handicapped?

    He specifically said that he is against any descrimination. Future Senator Paul is a strict constitutionalist like his father. That said, he is wary of a clause in the CRA of 1964 as overreaching into private ownership. It's called true freedom, people. The Tea Party isn't racist, and soon-to-be Senator Paul will eat Jack alive at the polls. PRINT IT!!

    May 20, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  16. Realistic

    Yes Rand Paul believes that the Civil Rights bill is good and in the same breath says it goes to far. Yes, private businesses should be allowed to refuse serving or admitting entry to anyone based on race. Yes, remembers those signs that use to say****Whites only* back in the day...Yes, according to Rand he wants to go back to those days, good job tea party. As he said, if a private business wants to refuse service or entry due to race that its ok by him because of *First Amendment and property rights.* And this is what the Tea Party & the republicans, libertarians believe. Rand wants to go back to the simpler days...WHAT A FOOL....Remember people vote in Nov to keep fools like this out of power...

    May 20, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. doug

    Oh the lib statists are going to go into convulsions over Paul's belief in freedom.

    Paul is right but most importainly is the comments by the libs to what he said. If you are a decent, fair, and honest human being, supporting a Democrat is just not possible.

    May 20, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  18. Joe

    No surprise after all he did hold his little victory party at a Private Country Club. I am waiting for him to say "Let them eat cake". Where is his polo pony-dose he have a black lawn jockey in his front yard?

    May 20, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  19. Voice of Reason

    It appears that the TEA Party is trying to 'Take our country back...'

    Yeah – to the dark ages

    May 20, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. bobden

    There is no business or institution in the US that does not benifit from public funds.

    Does Paul believe that freedom of speech includes the freedom to knowingly tell lies to the public? Self-serving lies.

    May 20, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  21. vet in tx

    "They're what we thought they were" – Denny Green

    May 20, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  22. NYS

    wow! by his logic, its just "bad business practices" to violate a whole host of restaurant regulations (unsanitory conditions, serving liqor to minors, capacity restrictions etc). If he has such views on the very basic right to equality, I shudder to think his opinion on regulation on industries, wall street etc

    May 20, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  23. Brenda

    Paul is a Libertarian.

    His response to private businesses regarding civil rights has NOTHING to do with him not supporting civil rights-–but the fact that Libertarians believe that nothing should get in the way of private business.

    However, did you notice that he also said-–any business receiving any type of public funding-–or any type of federal contracts--should have to follow civil rights legislation.

    I don't believe in everything that a Libertarian says-–they are the extreme of the Republican Party-–just like the loony left liberals are the extremes of the Democratic Party.

    However, it now appears that the voters in Kentucky would rather take their chances with the extreme right-–instead of the extreme left.

    After all of the socialists/marxists are voted out of the Democratic Party-–maybe then the country can move back to moderates from both Parties--and are country can be successful and function properly again.

    May 20, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  24. JayDeeTea

    Right-wingers like Paul are just plain hypocrites: they saw they are for civil rights, but only for themselves! In their brain, the government should not in any way be involved with civil rights or anything related to civil rights. In their world, if private restaurant or bus company owners practice racial segregation and discrinination, that"s a guaranteed right on the same level as the absolute right to carry a gun in public! (even if they don't belong to "a well regulated militia," according the Article II). These people really belong in 11th century Europe!!

    May 20, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. Ramiro Villarreal

    Double standard huh, it's ok for your president whom I did not vote for to make racist comments a big hypocrite also. Could care less about Olberman, Rachel Maddow or that Matthew guy can't stand neither of them.

    May 20, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
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