Four years after awkwardly skirting questions about the Civil Rights Act, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was suddenly happy to honor its 50th anniversary.
“Here’s Rand Paul, celebrating that law that he says, eh, he’s not sure he could have voted for,” Maddow said, displaying a statement posted on Paul’s website. “Today he says, ‘It is simply unimaginable to think what modern America would be like if not for’ that law to which he used to admit he was opposed. Now he’s its biggest champion. The word ‘unimaginable’ is exactly the right word here.”
The statement, Maddow said, was released in conjunction with Paul’s appearance at an event in Shelbyville, Kentucky, honoring a family of local activists, during which he “sang the praises” of not only people involved in the Civil Rights Movement, but the legislation itself.
“I don’t mean to be raining on the parade,” Maddow said. “But I have to point out that this does mark something of a shift in Rand Paul’s position on this legislation.”
Specifically, Maddow brought up their May 2010 interview, during which Paul — at that point still a senatorial candidate — said that while he agreed with nine of the ten provisions of the law, he would have tried to modify Title II, which prohibited private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race.
“What it gets into then is if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says ‘well no, we don’t want to have guns in here,’ the bar says ‘we don’t want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each-other,’” Paul said at the time. “Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion.”
“Well, it was pretty practical to the people who had the life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen’s lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about what it means about ownership,” Maddow responded. “This is not a hypothetical, Dr. Paul.”
Watch Maddow’s commentary, as aired on Wednesday, below.