MSNBC on Thursday went on the offensive against Republican and Tea Party favorite Rand Paul. In a single day, the cable network devoted 37 minutes over eight segments to implying that the Senate candidate might be a racist.
Each piece featured a clip of Paul's appearance on Wednesday's Rachel Maddow program in which the MSNBC host suggested the libertarian candidate would tolerate bigotry because he opposes government regulation.
Throughout the day, MSNBC touted liberal guest after liberal guest to excoriate the politician. The lineup included Jesse Jackson, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, liberal professors Boyce Watkins and Michael Eric Dyson and Democratic strategist Karen Finney.
There were no conservative guests on to defend Mr. Paul, who, while talking to Maddow, questioned the effectiveness of parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
During the 3pm hour, Mr. Watkins smeared, "I'm a fellow Kentuckian, just like Rand Paul. And I'm familiar with that brand of very subtle racism." Dyson berated, "Well, I think that [Paul] is a very disturbing figure...I think the reality is this does expose an undergirding, underlying, you know, racist vitriol."
Democratic strategist Finney gloated, "It is obviously an embarrassment for the tea party folks and the Republican Party." In a tease for the 1pm hour, host Andrea Mitchell hopefully suggested the candidate's interview with Maddow could be a "a game changing interview."
She didn't note that Paul has jumped to a 25 point lead over his Democratic opponent. MSNBC will have quite a ways to go before they can create a "game changing" event.
In the 2pm hour, anchor Tamron Hall chided, "A lot of people want Rand Paul to go back and clear up his words or change his words. If this is where he stands, if this is what he means, why not let him stick by it and suffer? If there are ramifications for it- then he has to deal with it."
The eight segments appeared this way: One in the 9am hour of the Daily Rundown. One in the 10am, 11am and 12pm hours of News Live. Another one during the 1pm hour of Andrea Mitchell Reports. Two more reports over the 2pm hour of News Live. Yet another in the show's 3pm edition.
A transcript of the segment in the 2pm hour, which aired at 2:21pm on May 20, follows:
RAND PAUL: I'm not in favor of any discrimination in any form. I would not belong to a club that excludes anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America can discriminate based on race. But, I think what is important in 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.
TAMRON HALL: And we have been discussing Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul under fire for controversial comments he made regarding the 1964 Civil Rights Act on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show last night and elsewhere. He questioned provisions of the law Today, Rand Paul issued a statement saying, quote, "Let me be clear. I support the Civil Rights Act. Joining me to talk about it, Georgetown University sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson. Also with us, Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney. So, Karen and Professor Dyson, we just showed a clip. But, it was really a hot moment last night. She really pressing Rand Paul. He kept saying that he's not a racist , but he wanted to make the separation the rights a private business has over something that is considered public. Karen, what's your take on what he had to say?
KAREN FINNEY: You know, whether or not you believe he is racist, even with the explanation that he gave today, while that was politically a smart thing to do, he really didn't address the fundamental problem with what most of us have with what he said. And that is this idea that, like, so private companies can decide what laws they follow and which ones they don't. So, does that mean BP gets to choose? Does that mean Toyota gets to choose and it is okay if they put out cars that are unsafe and may actually kill people? I mean, so, again, whether or not you think he is racist, there is a more fundamental argument that he really hasn't responded to.
HALL: Professor Dyson, it's interesting. A lot of people want Rand Paul to go back and clear up his words or change his words. If this is where he stands, if this is what he means, why not let him stick by it and suffer? If there are ramifications for it, then he has to deal with it.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Absolutely. I think it is not about political correctness in its garbled form. It is about the degree to which Mr. Rand [sic] is incapable of understanding that in this day and age, those who oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the, you know, Voting Rights Act or, three years later, the Fair Housing Act are the very people that stand against the best interests of American democracy. And I don't think we should have less speech, but more. I agree with him. Even though I abhor the speech of racists, I certainly want the freedom to be able to hear them and for them to be able to speak so we can make just decisions based upon our analysis of their abhorrent ideas and suggest that they are outside the mainstream of American society.
HALL: His point is that he believes the federal government has far overreached in its power grab. That is what he says, Karen, was the heart of what he is articulating. But, obviously hitting a hot button issue when you say that someone can't sit at a lunch counter because they are black or Latino or a woman.
FINNEY: Well, that's exactly right. And, actually, last night on an interview with NPR, he applied the same standard to the Americans with Disability Act. So, again, if you sort of extrapolate and follow his logic, it is not just about 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, we are talking about a fundamental American value. And that is, we don't discriminate, whether it is race, religion, gender, sexual orientation. We don't do that as Americans. And if he seeks to be a senator in the United States of America, he has got to be clear about where he stands on this issue. It is obviously an embarrassment for the tea party folks and the Republican Party. You saw, today, Mitch McConnell even trying to help clean this up a little bit.
HALL: Professor Dyson, in your thoughts what does this tell us about Rand Paul?
DYSON: Well, I think that he is a very disturbing figure. I think the attempt to dismiss is this is as ill-conceived as his ill-chosen words. I think the reality is this does expose an undergirding, underlying, you know, racist vitriol. Now, it doesn't have to be personal racial animus. But, these kind of outdated viewpoints that are defended by ostensibly by conservative or libertarian outlook misses the larger point. Without that 1964 act, without the voting rights act, without the laws where the government has stood behind vulnerable American citizens, one group of Americans would have overtaken others. And it amazes me that libertarians and conservatives want to keep the government from swelling, except they want to be able to tell people who they can marry. They want to dictate the terms of debate between disagreeing Americans and they want to preserve, I think, a tremendous preserve of, I think, privilege for those who have locked out. And I think until we understand that the government's intervention was the very means by which we had a free and a just America for black people, we're not even talking serious truth about American politics.