Paul limits media exposure after civil rights flap

Ky. Senate candidate’s spokesman decries ‘gotcha journalism’

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul addresses a luncheon meeting of the Lions Club in Bowling Green, Ky.
Ed Reinke / AP

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INTERACTIVE

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A calendar of contests in the race to Election Day 2010.
By ROGER ALFORD

updated 3:03 p.m. MT, Thurs., June 3, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Where in the world is Rand Paul?

His
campaign says he isn’t hiding, but the Republican U.S. Senate nominee
has barely been seen since he roiled state and national politics with
his suggestion that government should not require private businesses to
serve minorities.

Campaign
manager Jesse Benton said Paul is spending his time preparing for what
promises to be a tough general election campaign and tending to
patients at his Bowling Green ophthalmology practice.

"At
the same time," Benton said, "he is going to use his limited time to
make sure that he gives priority to people who are going to give a fair
story and not practice a ‘gotcha journalism’ that can be so
destructive."

Paul sparked widespread anger with a remark last month to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that he has misgivings about the Civil Rights Act.
Paul told Maddow he abhors racial discrimination but suggested that the
federal government should not have the power to force restaurants to
serve minorities if owners don’t want to.

While
Republican leaders sought to limit damage from that statement, Paul,
son of former Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas,
raised eyebrows again days later by defending the oil company blamed
for the Gulf oil spill and telling a Russian TV station that babies of
illegal immigrants shouldn’t automatically receive U.S. citizenship.

But now Paul appears to be listening to political advisers who suggested he reject national interview requests.

Republican
strategist Larry Forgy said Paul, a darling of the tea party movement,
doesn’t need the national media that shadowed him in the final weeks of
the primary campaign and booked him for appearances in the days after
his victory.

"He’s not running for national office," Forgy said.

The race is being closely watched nationally as Democrats seek to reclaim the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, a 78-year-old former major league pitcher known for gaffes of his own who opted not to seek a third term.

Paul easily defeated Secretary of State Trey Grayson
in the May 18 GOP primary, but the two weeks since have been turbulent.
His remarks sparked protests outside Kentucky’s Republican Party
headquarters and he canceled an appearance on NBC’s "Meet The Press."

In
an interview Thursday with a Kentucky radio station — the kind of media
attention he’s seeking now — Paul reiterated that he doesn’t want to
repeal the Civil Rights Act.

Video

  Paul critical of 1964 Civil Rights act
May
20: NBC’s Mark Murray talks about Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul’s
comments that the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that mandates
desegregation of private businesses is a violation of the First
Amendment.

The Daily Rundown

"In
fact, it’s not something that had ever even crossed my mind," he told
Louisville’s WHAS-AM. "It hasn’t been a real pressing concern in the
debates around Kentucky over the past year."

But
Paul’s Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Jack Conway, said
Paul’s comments show he wants to be "the prince of an
out-of-the-mainstream movement."

"I
think that obviously, with the shake-up in his campaign and with him
disappearing from the national cable shows, they’re trying to get some
kind of message control within that campaign," Conway said.

Benton said Paul isn’t ruling out occasional appearances on national TV.

"This
is a high-profile race, and there’ll be a lot of people around the
country who want to follow this race, and Dr. Paul will make time and
find time when he can to talk to the national press," Benton said. "The
priority now and through the rest of this race is gong to be talking to
Kentucky voters and talking to Kentucky press."

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