The decision by Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul to cancel his planned appearance on NBC's Meet the Press didn't stop him from being the dominant topic of discussion on just about every Sunday morning news show.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele offered the sternest comments of any Republican about Paul's recent controversial statements concerning the nation's anti-discrimination laws. "Rand Paul's philosophy got in the way of reality," he said on Fox News Sunday.
Paul triggered a firestorm of criticism and questions when he said in recent media interviews that private businesses should be able to decide whether they want to serve minorities, even though he abhors racism and discrimination. Paul also said President Barack Obama sounded "un-American" for criticizing BP for the Gulf Coast oil spill and "sometimes accidents happen" when discussing recent coal mine fatalities.
Speaking on ABC's This Week, Steele said he was uncomfortable with Paul's criticisms of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but he declined to condemn them.
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"I think it's important to understand that Rand Paul has clarified his statement and reiterated his support for ... pushing civil rights forward, as opposed to going backwards," Steele said on This Week.
Also speaking on Fox, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin defended Paul's comments. Palin, the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008, said Paul is a libertarian who questions the role of government in every aspect of life.
"I think more questions should be asked as to those impacts," Palin said. "And, Rand isn't going to be shy about asking those questions."
On NBC, Meet the Press host David Gregory suggested Paul, an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, might have found the national spotlight "a little too hot" during the past week.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on Meet the Press first-time candidates such as Paul occasionally stumble.
"I think he's clarified his position," Cornyn said, noting he thinks Paul's decision to avoid the show was wise.
Gregory pressed Cornyn about whether he agrees with Paul's libertarian view that embraces limited government, even if it means tolerating racists. "I don't know what all his views are," Cornyn responded.
Gregory dismissed that response and asked the question again. Cornyn eventually noted Paul clarified his stance on anti-discrimination laws and made clear he supports the 1964 Civil Rights Act and would not try to repeal portions of it.
Cornyn agreed that much of the next five months leading to the Nov. 2 general election will be spent discussing Paul's views on the proper size and scope of government, particularly government spending.
Paul was only the third major guest to cancel an appearance on the long-running show. The others were Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia.