Senate Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on Thursday said Rand Paul, the GOP nominee in the Kentucky Senate race, is “wrong” to express opposition to part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Less than two days after securing the Republican nomination, Paul stepped into a political firestorm after saying he disagrees with the landmark civil rights law’s prohibition on segregation policies at privately owned facilities open to the public.
“I think that was settled a long time ago and the country is better off,” Sessions told reporters when asked about Paul’s comments.
“Things that welcome the public should welcome everybody,” he said. “I think he’s wrong.”
Paul, a favorite of the tea party movement and son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), stoked the controversy in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” on Wednesday night when he said that while he abhors racism and supports nine of the 10 titles in the law, he “would have tried to modify” the portion banning private businesses from discriminating. As the matter exploded Thursday, Paul attempted to clarify his position, releasing a lengthy statement in which he said — “unequivocally” — that he will not support efforts to repeal the law and that he supports it.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, in a Thursday appearance on MSNBC questioned Paul’s sincerity. “I do believe it’s their deeds that define them, not their words,” he said. “Here he is in his statement last night saying he did not believe in private clubs that discriminated against people [and] he would not be a member of a private club that discriminated against people. He held his victory party in a members-only private club. … I would say to Mr. Paul, he just cannot have it both ways. He needs to lay out for the American people exactly who he is, what he is, and I do believe he is not good for this country going forward.”