Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, fresh off his primary victory in Kentucky, defended his criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Paul said that while he supported the overall goals of the Civil Rights Act — a monumental measure that outlawed discrimination against African Americans in various forms after a decades-long struggle for equality — he opposed a provision that banned private businesses from discriminating based on race.
“I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form,” Paul replied. “I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race.”
“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?'” Paul countered. “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 is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn’t mean we approve of it.”
“How about desegregating lunch counters?” Maddow later asked.
“Well what it gets into then is 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’ the bar says ‘we don’t want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each-other?'” Paul replied. “Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion.”
“Well, it was pretty practical to the people who had the life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen’s lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about what it means about ownership,” Maddow responded. “This is not a hypothetical, Dr. Paul.”