Rand Paul Seeks to Clarify Stance on Civil Rights Act of 1964

By Matt Loffman

May 20, 2010 1:58pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports: Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul sought to quell a rising controversy on Thursday by issuing a statement saying that he does not support repealing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “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,” said Paul in his written statement. Controversy over Paul’s views on the federal civil rights legislation erupted after he appeared Wednesday evening on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show.” The liberal talk-show host asked Paul: “Should Woolworth’s lunch counter have been allowed to stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no.” Paul declined to directly answer Maddow’s question. Instead, he said that he does not believe in discrimination but he worries that once the federal government has the power to set anti-discriminatory rules, it would have the power to dictate how private property should be used in other areas as well. “If 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.’” After Rand Paul issued a statement saying that he would not repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and reaffirming his support for stopping discrimination in the public sphere, he came under a new round of criticism from the Democratic Party which is honing in on his discomfort with the federal government regulating the discriminatory practices of private business owners. DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse says that if Rand Paul’s views prevailed, “we would go back to the days of separate lunch counters and discrimination and racism in employment and housing.” Asked about the DNC’s continuing criticism, Rand Paul adviser Jesse Benton said “rhetoric like that proves just how desperate they are.” Asked if Rand Paul supports the application of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to privately owned businesses, Rand Paul adviser Jesse Benton said: “That’s been settled by federal court. That’s how the act has been applied. That’s been settled by courts and he supports the Civil Right Act and 45 years of legal precedent.” Here is the full statement from the DNC’s Brad Woodhouse: “Rand Paul’s campaign and political fortunes are in free fall so it’s not surprising he’s trying to pull the rip cord on the parachute.  But it is clear from his interviews yesterday and his comments throughout the course of the campaign that when it comes to the private sector -  restaurants, landlords and employers should do be allowed to do whatever they please even if that means refusing to hire someone, seat someone at a restaurant or consider someone for housing based on the color of their skin.  If Rand Paul’s view of government prevailed, we would go back to the days of separate lunch counters and discrimination and racism in employment and housing.  Such are the views of the ever lurching right Republican Party and its Senate nominee in Kentucky, views which should disqualify him for public office at any level.” Here is the full statement from Rand Paul: “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.” ## ABC News’ Matt Loffman and Alexander Pepper contributed to this report.

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