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. Geoman

    This will be a sure win for the democrat in November. Great news. I knew Paul would f-up but I did not think it would happen so soon. Kentucky will say good-by "Pee Party" come November.

    May 20, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. stm


    "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."

    Not true. Amendments to the Constitution changed how it is written to preclude discrimination against minorities and women. An ammendment to the Constitution is part of the Constitution, so wanting to follow the Constitution as written means following those amendments as well.

    As a minority, I get what Dr. Paul is saying. If I know that a private business is whites only, I'm not going to petition the government or file suit to be able to patronize it. I'm far too proud for that. I'm going to take my business elsewhere and spread the word. Shame and Economics should force compliance, not the federal government.

    May 20, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  3. AVR

    It has been 45 years since the Civil Rights act was enacted. Since then, the KKK and other white supremist groups have freely exercised their right of free speech, public assembly, and recruitment. There is ample evidence from recent history and in today's society that the Civil Rights Act does not impede on anyone's first amendment rights.

    Can Rand Paul please give us one example where racist speech was restricted?

    May 20, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "Paul is, of course, absolutely right. Congress was never given the power to interfere in the relationship between individuals."

    Right...and I suppose the personal relationship between rapist or murderer and their victim is off limits for Congress too? People like Paul (and apparently yourself) not only do not understand the Constitution and the powers to protect the health, welfare and stability of our society and the rights and freedom of its individuals inherent within the branches of our government, but you've gone off on frolick and detour and invented your own version of the Constitution in your heads. It's sad really. You've taken some of the most important core principles upon which our country was founded to such an extreme that they no longer sound like rational thought.

    May 20, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  5. g stannard

    Your tea party roots are showing Mr Paul n any who go that way to the past.. so sorry the past is gone.. (John birch)
    If the constution wasn't a living document u may be correct, thank it isn't..
    Or should we bring back slavery n put the little woman back barefoot n pregnant. .. oh yea right that is the Tea u are smokin an stroking.

    May 20, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  6. Shawn J

    Wait, Teapartiers are bigots. Shocking.

    May 20, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. cardog

    To: toughlove...No matter how you compare Liberals with Idiots, it still plays out that there is no place in this country for open racism. For someone who wishes to be on the national stage, to say that the civil rights laws should be overturned is simply out of touch with reality. For someone to give even a simulance of credibility ( You) to such a stupid beief and saying it as well, shows that there are people like you who, if you put it just so, can make it seem that it's really OK.

    May 20, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  8. Brandon

    If Rand Paul had his way, WOMEN (Government made employers provide equal rights women). WOMEN would be in the kitchen and pregnant. No equal pay, no jobs.

    May 20, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  9. Cedar Rapids

    Funny but the extreme right wing BNP in the UK, that wants to create a whites only country, used exactly the same argument in their manifesto during the recent election.......they want to remove human rights laws from the UK because they contend it apparently interfers with free speech.
    Of course they then went on to say they would deport anyone that preaches hate, anyone that listened to that person, and anyone that complains about that 'just law', so that shows how much of a smoke screen the whole free speech thing was.

    May 20, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  10. Republicans is smart in the head area

    I think he is an excellent representative of the tea party movement – no substance, no sense of decency and no clue. Turn Kentucky Blue!

    May 20, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. not all docs play golf

    This man is nuts. How dare he compare a restaurant owner's right to not allow guns to not allowing black people. How dare he use "freedom of speech" as a basis for an owner not allowing a black person to eat at a restaurant. He has no more cerebral blood flow than Plain.

    Just keep your mouth running, Rand, about your quirky world views, so the country can truly see what the Republican party has become before the country makes choices in Nov.

    As a doctor myself, I am ashamed of you!

    May 20, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  12. Frank

    The problem with Paul pleading free speech on this is the Tea Partiers have demonstrated so much intolerance for the free speech of those they disagree with. Free speech for me but not for thee...

    May 20, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. nat

    Paul didn't say that he is not going to hire the person with a disability. It is exactly what this Act is about. His point was, that the law has to protect everyone: the disabled person from a discrimination and the office owner from a bankruptcy.

    May 20, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  14. kmber

    ToughLove, Henry Miller and others arguing that he's simply defending 'idiots' rights to be idiots' or 'congress was never given the right to legislate people's relationships.' Alright, so what do you say about the fact that Paul believes he should have the right to legislate women's reproductive systems? In truth, Paul is a gross hypocrite who can't possibly relate to minorities, women or anyone else who is not white, male and educated. Also, I love how he campaigned on being not part of the 'establishment'. Ah, the son of a congressman and former presidential candidate isn't part of the establishment?

    May 20, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. Andrew

    Paul answers questions with an irrelevant question in order to duck the issue. His ideas are to allow business owners freedom to discriminate against others, including handicapped people. These are extreme views, but they fit in nicely with today's Republican/Tea Party. Let's hope there are enough sensible people in KY who can see how dangerous these views are.

    May 20, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. RJD Scranton

    First off, if you have to preface a racist comment with, "I'm not racist," well good chance you probably are. Second, is there a business owner doing so well that they would be willing to practice open discrimination? Third, any politician concentrating only on social issues is not what this country needs. It's time for fiscal responsiblilty.

    May 20, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. LMJ

    Tea Party activists remind me of how the Nazi's got started..Mr. Paul seems to have confirmed what I have been thinking about these horrible group of people!

    May 20, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  18. ETM

    I do not think Paul is a racist, just a nut with an extremist view of property rights that would prohibit society from reasonably promoting the general welfare with restrictions on business to protect the environment, civil rights, public health, etc.

    I hope the good people of KY will not vote for such extremism. America cannot succeed in the 21st century by returning to the 19th.

    May 20, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  19. Rich

    I agree with Paul 100%. It's sad how many of you can't see past the racial aspect to the real issue, which is unconstitutional expansion of federal power. Just because the end result is good (less discrimination) doesn't mean the means (twisting the constitution into a pretzel) are acceptable.

    The right way to accomplish something unconstitutional (as the sections of the Civil Rights Act in question are) is to amend the constitution. The idea that The government can ignore constitutionally protected individual rights in the name of social good is terrifying. Where does it stop? Well, I'll tell you where – with George W. detaining American citizens on American soil indefinitely and without trial.

    I know it's a big leap from the Civil Rights Act to Bush's mangling of due process, but the same principle is at issue. Either you respect the constitution, even when you don't like the result (and both Paul and I agree that discrimination is a terrible thing), or you view the constitution as something that says what you want it to say.

    Again, if you think this is about race, I feel bad for you. It's about whether te government can (constitutionally) impose morals on a private place of business. Paul says no, and I agree.

    May 20, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  20. Bill in MA

    So Rand Paul thinks it's perfectly okay for a business person to hang a "no blacks allowed" sign in their store window. And he thinks it's okay to avoid hiring the handicapped if it would mean the employer is inconvenienced. Presumably he would not have a problem with a business owner firing an employee who becomes handicapped while employed.

    Rand doesn't discriminate – he just thinks other people should be allowed to discriminate if they want to. Never mind that any private business owner benefits from public roads, police and fire protection, military spending, banking oversight, truth in lending laws and deposit insurance, building codes (so you know that 2 story building isn't a fire trap or structurally unsound), etc. Never mind that that the people who are the target of discrimination help pay for all those things that makes a functioning business possible in the first place.

    May 20, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. John Ellis

    Rand Paul is one of those spoiled brat Republican candidates, like Bush II, or Steve Forbes who can spout this kind of 'pure' garbage without regard to the harm that would be done if the Civil Rights Act – or even that provision alone – were removed. He is arrogant, smug and casually destructive. You do not have the right to discriminate when you own a public business. That was settled 45 years ago. You want to be an idiot racist in your private affairs, that's your personal stupidity and loss. You want to be a public idiot, run for office like Rand Paul.

    May 20, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. Melvina

    Henry Miller, Libertarian said "Paul is, of course, absolutely right. Congress was never given the power to interfere in the relationship between individuals."
    Yet they want to control women's decision on abortion, deprive gays of equality, and some want prayer in schools and public places (Christian religeons only). What they really want is full freedom for corporations to DO ANYTHING TO ANYBODY in order to increase profits for themselves. These bunch of hypocrits think American rights only apply to them.

    May 20, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. liberal

    Apple is allowed to refuse cash to buy an ipad, because it is their private business.

    I don't like it, so I won't buy an ipad.

    How is this any different?

    Dr. Paul is right, and I appreciate he stands his ground at the cost of being "politically incorrect".

    May 20, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Mitch

    This guy is two fries short of a happy meal. He truly believes that discrimination is fine because freedom of speech is protected in the constitution? Um....has he ever read the part that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL? The rights to equality supersede the rights of discrimination.

    So now we have a conservative movement that wants to allow discrimination, wants to check papers, wants to silence liberal and creative thinkers, ban books (thank you Texas) and so wants to go to war.

    Don't look now but the conservative movement is one brown shirt and misguided ancient symbol from becoming the new Nazi party.

    May 20, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. ehwilson429

    conway's family were documented slaveholders.

    they also sold tobacco.

    May 20, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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