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. Boisepoet

    Heard his interview on NPR. He made it obvious he hates "institutional racism" (government condoned racism?), but made it sound pretty obvious that he is ok with all other forms of racism.

    Maybe instead of issuing statements that they are not a movement based in racism, the Tea Party should not support people like Paul who are obviously closet racists.

    BTW, google his father's newsletters, especially the ones from the 80's and early 90's, and tell me that Ron Paul does not hold similar views.

    May 20, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. Independent One

    Oh God please this is NOT the person we need in congress....We need a third party but the tea party is NOT it!!!!

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

    Excuse me Greg, I am in the Tea Party. I'm conservative and I am NOT A RACIST. Go to a Tea party and see what it is about before you speak.

    May 20, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. jeff

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

    if the shoe fits.... or in this case, i goody, i can use the race card because......
    well, if you don't think he is a racist, there is no help for you.

    May 20, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. DICK Cheney

    Boy, all of you Republicans and Libertarians do us all a favor by showing your true colors. Individual rights and free speech? You're kidding me, right? The Federal Government does have a right to ensure that the Civil Rights of INDIVIDUALS is not violated by others, including private business owners. A private business owner doesn't like this "cost" of doing business? Then leave the USA and set up your business elsewhere, like Afghanistan. Private business owners here in the US benefit from the laws and economy here in the US. You don't like those laws and find them oppressive? Then shut your business down and go spew your discriminatory speech in another fashion.

    May 20, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    I heard a lot of bragging about him being the Tea Party backed candidate. So does this say he is the face of what they really stand for? I wonder how many of them will come out and denounce what he just said?

    May 20, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  7. Rickster

    mr. paul used the same reasoning that the anti gays use against gays.

    May 20, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. vegage

    He is just a whie supremacist. We are going backwards in this country. We need a liberal revolution.

    May 20, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. Cory in Kentucky

    I think people should stop and read Dr. Paul's logic and reason for his objection to PORTIONS of the two acts in question.

    Most of the comments I have seen, seem to come from the point of view that if you are not 100% supportive of every letter of those two acts then you must be a "kook", "racist", "extreme" etc.. person.

    Is this what we have come to? That we can not even have a debate about ideas anymore. Just because the government can do something does not mean that they should or that it is constitutional.

    May 20, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. cardog

    I've read some very good and creative responses to Rand Paul's views. Most of us have railed aganist the Tea Party that supports people like Mr. Paul. As you see though, in order for Rand Paul to have beat out his opponent this week, it took other people out there voting for him to do so. To me that implies that there are a lot of people in Kentucky that think the same way this idiot does. His views are nothing new, it' is/was known not only by the voters who voted for him, but the Tea Party organization as well.
    We can complain about the Tea Party until the sky falls, but the only way to defeat these people is to 1) study the back-grounds of the people they back & 2) don't just talk the talk, get out and vote these candidates off the map.
    Democrats along with progressives out-number Republicans almost 3 to 1 in the U.S. Lets use our strength at the ballot box and quit all the crying about these bigots called Republicans/Tea Partiers/Birthers.

    May 20, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. Bran

    Yeah Rand, we saw how great it was pre-Civil Rights Act when private businesses were allowed to be racist, prejudice and biased under the protection of laws.

    I'm sure you've had experience with being refused service at a restaurant, told to use a different bathroom, shunned from a mall or shopping center or tossed out of a country club merely due to the race of your parents. I'm sure having that happen even once would make you realize how stupid your comments sound.

    May 20, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. jj

    sounded wacko to me last night on meadow...

    May 20, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  13. Livin' the good life

    While it's a good thing we have freedom of speech, it is not, an excuse to belittle others. HATE speech is something that SHOULD be outlawed. I, myself, am tired of people throwing the "free speech" up when the only thing they are doing is critizing and putting others down. I am sure that is not what the founding fathers intended. Also, his "invitation" to Obama to "come on down" to KY sounds like something Bush would say like come and get us, wanted dead or alive etc...This is not the wild west nor how things are won in the 21st century. WHY do people like this always harken back to the past and NOT look forward to a better and hopefully brighter future?...Beau Colby

    May 20, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. RichP, easton, pa

    And so the liberal progressives now have a new target to overwhelm, misquote, take out of context with the help of the main stream media.

    May 20, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. Patriot

    I give Paul some credit for articulating the point about encroahcing on the 1st ammendment rights of racists..but that issue is settled law.

    The fact that he questions out loud parts of the Civil rights Act shows what a novice he is. He was either trying to score some cheap points with the racists who are likely to vote for him, or he was incredibly careless to the repercussions his statements would have in the mainstream.

    May 20, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. mjm

    I missed the part where Paul said something controversial. The problem with libs is that they will just read the headline and not read OR understand what it says. Meanwhile.....we have an AG Democrat in Connecticut that thought he was in Vietnam during the war.......slightly more controversial.

    May 20, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. Rich

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA says:
    May 20, 2010 at 12:31 pm
    "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."

    It's nothing short of astounding that you could pick out the part of what Paul said that most shows what the issue really is and immediately follow that with the assertion that he "thinks parts of our society need to be segregated." You couldn't have misunderstood more blatently if you'd tried.

    He said exactly the opposite of "there should be segregation." He said there shouldn't be any discrimination whatsoever in so many words.

    BUT he doesn't think it's the government's job to legally impose that morality in interactions between private parties. I honestly cannot comprehend how the majority of the commentors fail to understand the difference between opposing something (discrimination between private parties) and thinking it's an appropriate area for government regulation.

    May 20, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  18. Just the Facts

    “Pat in Jacksonville”, some form of concealed carry is legal for the average citizen in 48 states. In many of those states it’s up to the property owner as to whether allow a gun onto their property. So Paul’s analogy is valid.

    May 20, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. Peggy - TX

    All Rand Paul had to say was that in general he believes federal Government extends to much into private enterprise and that he would have preferred such amendments be constructed more narrower and yet still address the discrimination problems of that era; however, he personally believes the same thing about a great many of our laws, but he does not believe that the 19th amendment stands out as particularly overreaching and that he has no plans to try and change that particular amendment as he has much higher priorities .such as (1) ... (2) ... (3) ... I kind of like Rand Paul's frankness . I disagree with his views. He HAD tremendous potential but he is NOW proven to be a weak politician, as his intellectual discussions are appropriate for college classes, but totally wrong approach for a candidate running for office.

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

    I like the posts about taking the country back sixty years, was that not when we believed in balanced budgets and honesty. I am all for it and race baiters need not apply.

    May 20, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. get real

    Whoo Hooo! I'm movin' to Kentucky where I will buy up all the grocery stores and then refuse to let anyone named Scott or any Libertarians shop in my stores. It's my freedom of speech!

    May 20, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  22. martraco

    Wait until some bar puts up a sign saying 'No Anglos Allowed'. Where will he stand on that owners rights?

    May 20, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. Brennan

    He's a big idiot! He definately won't win.

    May 20, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. Pete

    What a surprise the "tea party" guy trying to be for the 1st amendment while at the same time saying discrimination based on race is ok...which in essence is racism. That is not some "lefty" fabrication of the is what the man is saying and said.

    Good luck winning a general election anywhere with that

    May 20, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. bill486

    There's a reason the Civil Rights act says what it says, Rand-people can't be trusted in this area, and it takes the power of the Federal Government to enforce those rights; it doesn't matter how noble your priciples are.

    May 20, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
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