Maddow Digs In On Charges Rand Paul Would Have Opposed Civil Rights Act

Since last Tuesday, it’s been morning after week for Kentucky Senate Republican candidate Rand Paul. While he recorded interviews at NPR and The O’Reilly Factor today, he didn’t waste any time booking himself for the toughest interview he could find. Tonight, that interview was on The Rachel Maddow Show. Don’t be deceived by the lack of shouting– this was by far the most heated exchange of the night across cable news.

It wasn’t the first time Paul was on the program– in fact, he had announced his candidate for Kentucky Senate on The Rachel Maddow Show months before. But last night’s interview was almost like a science experiment: put two of the most ideologically pure people in the politi-media world together to challenge each other on one of the issues they each care about the most. For Paul, that issue is the rights of the individual and the danger of the federal government stepping over them. For Rachel Maddow, the issue is institutional discrimination and the moral obligation to abolish it. That, at least, is how each one of them saw the respective problems and successes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which Paul had been coming under attack for allegedly opposing.

While, as he has before, Paul reiterated that he personally hates racism and, for the most part, likes the Civil Rights Act, he is definitely giving people the space to assume that he would be ok with segregated businesses, because he expects the practice to negatively affect a business so much that the market wold take care of eliminating racism without the government getting in the way. It’s a consistent application of his ideology, but Maddow counters that, in practice, the market just hasn’t proven enough of a detractor to ensure that racism will not be institutionalized.

“I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form, I would never belong to any club that excluded anyone for race… but I think what’s important about 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.”

After being pressured by Maddow for a straight answer on the Civil Rights Act itself, Rand answered that he is “in favor of the federal government being involved in civil rights.” Maddow continued, asking him about his qualms with forcing private businesses to adhere to certain civil rights standards. Paul explained further, making an comparison between banning minorities from a business and banning guns, citing one as a breach of the First Amendment and the other as a breach of the Second. Paul also accused Maddow of using the Civil Rights Act comments as a “red herring” to distract from the rest of his platform, though Maddow defended her questions as a probe into what she sees as an “extreme view” that will garner national attention.

It’s a tense, theoretical, and fairly complex twenty minutes of dialogue. The interview below:

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