Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is joining the GOP’s minority outreach campaign this week, with a speech at Washington D.C.’s Howard University on Wednesday.
Paul will discuss “inclusion in the Republican Party” and “the history of the African-American community’s roots in the Republican Party” at the historically black university founded shortly after the Civil War, while also touching on “current issues, such as school choice and civil liberties,” according to Howard University’s release
Although Rand Paul has touted himself as a champion of civil liberties, his record on civil rights is far murkier.
The Tea Party lawmaker came under scrutiny during his 2010 campaign for Senate when he argued that the Civil Rights Act should never have included Title II, the provision that barred private businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of race. He told the Louisville-Courier Journal in 2010, “I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.”
In a subsequent interview with msnbc’s Rachel Maddow, he refused to directly answer whether or not be believed private businesses have the right to refuse to serve black people.
“I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form,” he responded. “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. But I think what’s important about this debate is not written 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?”
The uproar over that interview forced Paul to release a statement the next day, clarifying that he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As recently as 2012, he’s defended his father Ron Paul’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act, saying, “It’s not all about race relations, it’s about controlling property, ultimately.”
If he’s smart, Paul ought to be more forceful in his support of civil rights during his appearance at Howard this week. If he’s lucky, no one will ask him about this issue or his father’s racist newsletters.