CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin blasted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Thursday for blaming Eric Garner’s death on New York City’s cigarette taxes, Media Matters reported.
“It’s an extrapolation,” Toobin told host Wolf Blitzer. “It’s an inclusion of an agenda item on Rand Paul’s agenda, which is perfectly appropriate to have, but one that had nothing to do with why Eric Garner is dead. He’s dead because of abusive police tactics, not because of high cigarette taxes.”
Earlier in the day, Paul told MSNBC host Chris Matthews that the 2010 state law raising taxes on 20-packs of cigarettes “put our police in a dangerous situation.”
“I think it’s hard not to watch that video of him saying ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ and not be horrified by it,” Paul said. “But I think there’s something bigger than the individual circumstances. Obviously, the individual circumstances are important. But I think it is also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes, so they’ve driven cigarettes underground so as to not make them so expensive.”
Garner died this past July while being questioned by police for selling individual cigarettes without tax stamps, also known as “loosies.” One officer, Daniel Pantaleo, grabbed him from behind in what the local medical examiner determined was a chokehold. But a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, spurring demonstrations around the city.
Toobin said on Thursday that Paul was “the only person” blaming Garner’s death on the cigarette tax, which was a misreading of the case.
“This confrontation took place as part of an overall police philosophy in New York of cracking down on quality of life crimes,” Toobin said. “Like turnstile-jumping. Like using squeegees on cars by homeless people. This had nothing to do with cigarette taxes.”
Watch Toobin’s remarks, as posted by Media Matters on Thursday, below.