Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) threw a hissy fit on MSNBC's The Cycle Wednesday afternoon over coverage of his 2010 remarks about the Civil Rights Act, and the inflammation was still raging hours later when he spoke to a group of young libertarians about how the "cranks and hacks" at MSNBC just totally ruined his day.
It all started with Ari Melber interviewing Paul and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) about their criminal justice bill The REDEEM Act, which, among other things, seeks to restore certain rights to felons. Melber used that as a peg to ask Paul about his 2010 remarks, in which he expressed reservations about the forced desegregation of private businesses that serve the public, and what made him change his mind.
Paul responded by essentially recasting his remarks, not as an objection to the public accommodation provisions of the Civil Rights Act, but as a mere "philosophical discussion," repeatedly assuring Melber, "I have never been against the Civil Rights Act," and demanding that MSNBC broadcast "24 hour news telling the truth" in exchange for a discussion of his views on private businesses, all while The Cycle's producers showed graphics of Paul's direct quotes on the matter.
Now, Paul is correct that he took a lot of flak from MSNBC over that interview, but I've watched an awful lot of MSNBC programming on the subject, and aside from the opinions and conclusions of its guests and host, which are subjective, their reporting and characterization of Paul's remarks has been accurate and fair, and in Melber's case, even generous.
In that May, 2010 interview, Maddow gave Paul myriad opportunities to say whether or not he thought segregated lunch counters should be illegal, and/or to say that he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act despite his lone philosophical objection, and he declined. Whether this makes Paul a "horrible racist," as he puts it, is a matter of opinion, one I have never heard expressed on MSNBC, but it is accurate to say that, in this interview, Rand Paul expressed opposition to provisions of the Civil Rights Act, and a reluctance to vote for it as it was passed.
A few hours later, Paul was speaking to the Young Americans for Liberty conference in Arlington when his butthurt flared up again. "So, I was having a great day today, and then I went to MSNBC," Paul moped, and launched into a tirade that included some name-calling, but also seemed to acknowledge the very point that Melber had been asking him about:
"They want to pounce and get me into a discussion, you know, about civil liberties, private property, and all of the intersection in between, and I said, 'Look I'll come back and we'll have a great philosophical discussion after I see you go on the air for 24 hours and apologize for all the lousy lies you've been saying about me for four years.' I'm thinking I won't be back on soon."
On her program last night, Rachel Maddow again went over the particulars of that 2010 interview, and Paul's handling of plagiarism accusations, and excoriated him for being petulant. Paul's real problem, though, is that he still views the matter of segregation by private businesses that serve the public as a discussion.
Here's video of Paul's full speech to the conference:
(h/t: Josh Feldman)