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

    Hey Eric...remember, if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, guess what? It's a duck.....

    May 20, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  2. neonmadman

    Congratulations Tea Party, you have your new voice. You obviously vetted him as well as McCain did Sarah Palin. I changed from republican to independent 4 years ago and this is almost enough to make me want to switch back. But instead I will continue to hope for a new legitimate third party in this country that can maybe pressure the rep's & dem's into doing what we need to really get our country back. Take the money & religion out of the election process, term limits and lose the lobbyists.

    May 20, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  3. eddier20

    Paul is an idiot. Not surprised people vote for him though. I seem to remember a certain idiot winning an election, and then winning again four years later!

    May 20, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  4. Jon S.

    if someone talks like a bigot and is quoted saying things that a bigot would say... Then again, he's just following in the footsteps of his out-to-lunch father, who is famously homophobic. Just following the family line of intolerance.

    May 20, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. Marktmurphy5

    Any position taken to an extreme can be exposed and I think that's what Maddow did in the interview. How many different ways can you say you don't believe civil rights acts should be repealed, or that you support the law before the interviewer just lets it go. Paul never advocated rolling back existing law. I'm not a libertarian but I can appreciate questioning how much we should reasonably expect government to do. For example, how many people, regardless of race, didn't find the result of the Connecticut firefighter testing case at least a little disturbing. Would Paul extend those protections beyond their current boundaries? No, and on that point he's fair game. But denouncing him and the entire libertarian party as racists is just the other side of the same coin.

    May 20, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. Aaron

    Being from the Deep South, I can attest that, without enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, we'd still be segregated down here, and people of color would not have the opportunity to get decent jobs anywhere but the federal government. If Paul wants to discriminate, he should go after the hairdresser that gave him his poodle do.

    May 20, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  7. Steve

    How dense can you people be? It's called a philosophy. Trying having one, instead of just picking up on a soundbite and then flying off the handle. Funny how lefties are all in favor of freedom of speech until you say something they don't like.

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." – Evelyn Beatrice Hall

    May 20, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  8. Rich (Charleston, SC)

    I don't get what everyone is upset over. What he say makes a lot of sense. You can disagree with people or what they satd for, but they have the right to speak their minds.

    May 20, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  9. Cory in Kentucky

    In response to liberal media attacks, Dr. Rand Paul today released the following statement:

    “I believe we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person. I have clearly stated in prior interviews that I abhor racial discrimination and would have worked to end segregation. Even though this matter was settled when I was 2, and no serious people are seeking to revisit it except to score cheap political points, I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    “Let me be clear: I support the Civil Rights Act because I overwhelmingly agree with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination in the public sphere and halt the abhorrent practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws.

    “As I have said in previous statements, sections of the Civil Rights Act were debated on Constitutional grounds when the legislation was passed. Those issues have been settled by federal courts in the intervening years

    “My opponent’s statement on MSNBC Wednesday that I favor repeal of the Civil Rights Act was irresponsible and knowingly false. I hope he will correct the record and retract his claims.”

    “The issue of civil rights is one with a tortured history in this country. We have made great strides, but there is still work to be done to ensure the great promise of Liberty is granted to all Americans.

    “This much is clear: The federal government has far overreached in its power grabs. Just look at the recent national healthcare schemes, which my opponent supports. The federal government, for the first time ever, is mandating that individuals purchase a product. The federal government is out of control, and those who love liberty and value individual and state’s rights must stand up to it.

    “These attacks prove one thing for certain: the liberal establishment is desperate to keep leaders like me out of office, and we are sure to hear more wild, dishonest smears during this campaign.”

    May 20, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. j.j.

    this is what sarah palin and all the tea parter members think...the tea party leader said that muslims worship a money...that is racial but this is whats going on now...the white hoods are off and live and well

    May 20, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, The Tea Party is this how the're going to lead the USA, So now we know the true meaning when they say (WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK). This so call movement is a disgrace to modern kind.

    May 20, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  12. Capt. Snarky

    Sounds to me like he's making a " I don't agree what you say, but I'll defend your right to say it " statement. I disagree on a lot of issues with the Progressives, but they do have a right to state their viewpoint (however bassackwards it may be)..........

    I have no problem with individuals coming up with common sense solutions to problems......

    May 20, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  13. GOP = "I hope he fails"

    Dr. Paul are you so blinded and dead set on your ideology that you would allow these private owners to go back to pre-Civil Rights era segregation in their establishments? And what's more pertinent; would you allow blacks to suffer segregation just so the government doesn't take the reasonable steps necessary to ensure THEIR RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES?

    Time and time again we are told by you wing-nuts that you are not racist. Well racist is as racist does. You'll turn right around and vote in politicians that allow racism to be practiced where ever it may not be a racist yourself, but you may as well be.

    May 20, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. Ethan

    Ayn Rand Paul is literally insane.


    Would he think it is okay for a BLACK business owner to legally discriminate against WHITE customers?

    What does Sarah Palin say that Ayn Rand Paul thinks it's okay for businesses to legally discriminate against her disabled child?

    Etc etc.

    The guy's a nut. But I'd really like to see answers to those questions.

    May 20, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  15. Leper

    To anyone actually listening to the guy, he's obviously not defending racism as much as he is defending the right to free speech, regardless of abhorrent that speech may be to the listener. It's not an at all unreasonable position.

    Moreover, it's nice to hear a politician who is willing to give an honest, thoughtful answer as opposed to doing a political two-step whenever someone asks him about something controversial.

    May 20, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  16. Get A Grip

    Lora May 20th, 2010 12:48 pm ET

    Discrimination is discrimination. Period. Got that Mr. Paul. It's simple. Like you.
    Yes, discrimination is discrimination.....And here's a few that do discriminate....

    Miss Black American
    African American Police Union
    United Negro College
    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
    Black Entertainment Network

    May 20, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    maybe now the blacks will vote for him...the blacks sold their vote to the kkk led democrats for welfare.

    May 20, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  18. Mark

    Rand Paul wants places like the country club he is a member of to be able to discriminate against minorities and deny them membership. He claims he isn't racist but his actions speak for themselves. He is just another rich white man who wants to return to the old days of slavery and bigotry.

    May 20, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  19. GI Joe

    Poor little rich kid.

    The nut didn't fall far from the tree.

    h ha ha ha haha a ha h ha

    May 20, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  20. cnnblocks

    maybe now the blacks will vote for him...the blacks sold their vote to the kkk led democrats for welfare.

    May 20, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  21. ILoveTheUSofA


    Please Do Not Enter If Your Race, Religion, Or Disabilities Would Be Annoying To Others. (You Know Who You Are!)

    Support Your Local TEA KLUCKS KLAN...

    – Because In Your Heart, You Know the Fourteenth Amendment Went Way Too Far.

    May 20, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  22. KIM

    Let's see, it has only been 48 hours and the left is beginning to brand Paul as a racist. It's really getting old. Is this all the left can do? They use this ploy time and time again and keep perpetuating racial issues. Lots to gain from it politically and monetarily.

    May 20, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  23. Eric in Denver

    Just the liberal media trying to make a republican look bad. Go back to work folks no story here. Wasn't Robert Byrd a leader for the KKK? Oh wait never mind he is a democrat!

    May 20, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  24. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    This guy should be embarrassed for himself. Paul may be a good eye doctor but he is a total moron who doesn't have the ability to respond to simple questions regarding policy or politics. John King interviewed him yesterday and he couldn't answer one queston, he's almost in the same sad shape as Palin.

    May 20, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  25. Mike Mc

    good, cook him over the coals! His response to Maddows questioning is nothing short of shocking. This is a prime example of how overly simplistic libertarian fundamentalism fails to provide answers to real world problems.

    May 20, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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