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. Bruce

    I have heard Rand Paul interviewed three times on this question, and he gives exactly the same response. Not just the same type of answer, but word for word. Rather than admit that he is opposed to anti-discrimination laws (which he clearly is), he tries to redirect the subject by coming out in favor of free speech. This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with anti-discrimination laws. The laws do not "outlaw" racist speech, they prohibit private businesses from using race as a basis for denying individuals services. Under the current laws, a restaurant can put up a large sign calling black people monkeys, but it cannot refuse to serve them food because they are black. Paul is an idiot.

    May 20, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. cwalk

    he is a racist and it is really starting to come out.tea part are racist .his comments are not anything new.if tea party could go back to slavery they would.

    May 20, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. VA4Love

    A Segregated Lunch Counter in the early 60's...

    That's exactly when and where Rand Paul and his sociopathic ilk want to "take the country back".

    May 20, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. cardog

    To Jack....Every American, whit, black, hispanic and asian has a responsibility to obey the laws of our country, pay your taxes and treat each other with dignity and respect.
    If you can convince me that prior to 1963, all of the above was guranteed to all Americans then you know something that a lot of Americans, especially people of color don't.
    There was a time just being white was the image of a responsible American...don't you remember Jack?

    May 20, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. David

    Disgusting, do you think that a company would also have the right to say where on a bus someone could sit based on race, same thing.

    May 20, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  6. Kelli

    Since Mr. Paul thinks it would be OK for a privately owned business to discriminate based on race or anything else, I think I'll open a restaurant and put up a sign that says "No stupid, racist, tea-party, oil-spilling, redneck, ignorant morons allowed". Of course many of them won't be able to read it.

    May 20, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. Angus McDugan

    Wow! The libs have been motivated to get out and spew on the blogs after this past Tuesday. LOL!

    May 20, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. Donna

    Just what did he actually say that was so terribly wrong? Nothing. Quit jumping on everything a person says. Nothing wrong either with the tea party, except that it is middle America protesting against the liberals. You liberals always jump on anyone who is different than you. We are taking back our country, and if you don't like it you'll have to live with. To much change going on and it's not for the better.

    May 20, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. mjm

    Liberals would care less about civil rights if minorities voted with Republicans.

    May 20, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Nik Green

    If Rand Paul is a genuine Libertarian, then he should know that, in the pursuit of one's own liberties it is wrong if such pursuits infringe upon the liberties of others.

    May 20, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  11. AnProf

    Paul is way too subtle and nuanced about federal overreach to be a politician, unfortunately. Many folks will just scream and clutch their heads, not bothering to try to understand his meaning. Thus, we end up with politicians who say all the "right things" to constituents, but are afraid to speak and discuss intelligently on issues. So we end up with pablum and Politically Correct sound bites for the masses. Hopefully, most Kentuckians have better sense, and can consider new ideas.

    May 20, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. Radar55

    Hmmmmmm, wonder how many blacks he turned down for eye care?

    May 20, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  13. Johnny DC

    Wow, you Liberal morons sure know how to give a perfect example to what Rand Paul is fighting to defend.

    You don't understand the first thing about his side of the argument, yet you have the right – which he adamantly defends for you – to speak your stupidity loud and clear across the internet.

    May 20, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. katiec

    The tea party and Paul would set the advancement of our nation back for years. Except for those that have the same outdated, racial, discriminating ideas cannot imagine how he got elected. It appears voters are letting theirselves be blindly led to non support of everything that makes our nation great.
    Thankfully, they are the minority as intelligent patriotic people want no part of people like Paul and the beliefs the tea party stands for.

    May 20, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. Albert R. Killackey, Esq.

    This punk needs a civics lesson on the word "public."He thinks a "private business" open to the public can be run like a "private exclusive bigoted club" but still be able to sponge from the public to pay the rent. These bigots still have no idea what "public" means. This is the problem that runs throughout the Republican Party. The whole Party is made up of corporatists (those who incorporate with others in business, church, bigoted groups; you name it) but then think we all should live according to their rules. The November election will not be about liberal vs. conservative, it will be about the American Creed of individual rights vs. global Corporatists. With the Republican Senators voting against control of Wall Streets global corporations as our middle class wealth is drained into the global corporate economy , and the Republican appointed Justices on the Supreme Court holding that gloabl Corporations are "persons with the right of free speech," i.e., bribes, it is clear Republicans are digging their own political grave.

    May 20, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. Mad Mike in Miami

    Dollars to donuts Rand Paul is the next U.S. Senator from Kentucky

    LIBTARDS... Your days are numbered

    May 20, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Eric in Indiana

    I am trying to follow Mr. Paul's arguement about private ownership as in the restaurant example. So, if I can follow his logic, the government has absolutely no buisness telling any privately run business for example, safety standards, or health standards, or child labor standards, or minimum wage standards. Each local government can handle these issues. We don't need a Federal Government trying to establish sound logical standards such as Equal Protection under the law for ALL citizens. Slavery was still allowed under the constitution. I hate when these hardcore constitutionalists claim to know exactly what the founders intended when they had clearly gotten several things wrong. Hence the existence of several amendements along the way.

    May 20, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. What a joke!

    Scary thing is, there are people like Scott and joshua listed in the comments below that AGREE WITH THIS FOOL!

    May 20, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  19. JWR

    Discrimination is discrimination, no matter what. When a private business enjoys the services paid for by the public; such as police and firefighter protection, are they really private? They may be privately owned but are partially subsidized by the public sector when it comes to services provided. When a business discriminates, they are in effect saying, I enjoy your help in paying for my police and fire protection but I won't serve you. The tea baggers don't have a clue. We're all in this together. This is not their country, it is OUR country, the true Americans who have fought, bled, died and even slaved for America which God has truly blessed. Shouting, making wild accusations, spewing hatred and name calling does not unite, it divides. The tea party is the same as the Black Nationalists were in the sixties, they just look different.

    May 20, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    It's ok to be a conservative, but this guy is too radical.

    May 20, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. cardog

    To bill from philly...last comment of the day from me. You most likely find it amusing that someone today, in the 21st century can make statements like this Rand Paul has made, and you find it to be "Nothing"?
    Continue to stick your head in the sand mr.bill from philly and one day the subject matter may just involve you.

    May 20, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. King Teabag

    Keep 'em coming Randi, and don't hold back! You speak you're mind using any words you like! Remember, you and the teabaggers are RIGHT and everyone else is a welfare queen loser, that hates Amerika. USAUSAUSA!!!

    May 20, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. mjm

    Most intelligent people know fake controversy when they see it....
    This is it

    May 20, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. TimC

    FAY MOGHTADER, if you wish to call people morons or ignorant in public, could you at least learn to spell. Oh, some grammar and punctuation lessons might come in handy as well...

    To the rest, I don't understand why any negative comment about the president, or existing civil rights laws is now instantly shouted down as racist. How about turning off the knee-jerk reaction and giving Paul's comments a few turns around in your head before screaming back at him? Should discrimination laws trump personal property protections? What if it was YOUR property? This is worthy of serious debate, not just shouting back and forth at each other! Reasoned debate and consensus-building is what this country used to be about.

    Paul, like his father, is not against civil rights. To them, the federal government should treat us all exactly the same, as unique individuals. How can that be racist?

    May 20, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. Red Hot Lib

    Don't you just love it when these guys slip and fall back into their own Bulls#$t! I would love to know what Rand Sr, must be saying to Rand Jr. now! Maybe not as smart as the old man, after all!

    May 20, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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