Steele refuses to denounce Rand Paul: ‘I can’t condemn a person’s view.’

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"Steele refuses to denounce Rand Paul: ‘I can’t condemn a person’s view.’"

This morning on ABC’s This Week, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had to address Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul’s recent comments that private business owners should be allowed to discriminate against people of color or anyone else they choose. After a firestorm of criticism, he backtracked and said he would “not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” but the controversy has raised other questions about his views on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal minimum wage, and the Fair Housing Act. Today, Steele said that Paul’s philosophy is “misplaced in these times” because it’s not “where the country is right now.” However, he defended that position because “it’s a philosophical position held by a lot of libertarians” and refused to condemn Paul:

STEELE: That’s a direct quote, and it’s a philosophical position held by a lot of libertarians, which Rand Paul is. They have a very, very strong view about the limitations of government intrusion into the private sector. That is a philosophical perspective. We have had a lot of members go to the United States Senate with a lot of different philosophies, but when they get to the body, how they work to move the country forward matters. […]

TAPPER: But do you condemn that view?

STEELE: I can’t condemn a person’s view. That’s like, you know, you believe something and I’m going to say, well, you know, I’m going to condemn your view of it. It’s the people of Kentucky will judge whether or not that’s a view that they would like to send–

TAPPER: Are you comfortable with that?

STEELE: I am not comfortable with a lot of things, but it doesn’t matter what I’m comfortable with and not comfortable with. I don’t vote in that election. The people of Kentucky will. As a national chairman, I’m here to say that our party will move forward in fighting for the civil rights and liberties of the American people, especially minorities in this country, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that everyone who’s going to come to the United States Congress or go to state capitals with a Republican label are in that fight with us.

TAPPER: It sounds like you’re not comfortable with it.

STEELE: I just said I wasn’t comfortable.

Watch it:

Transcript:

KAINE: I was a civil rights lawyer for 17 years. Rand Paul wrote a letter about the Fair Housing Act to a local newspaper, saying a free society should tolerate private discrimination, even if it means that hate-filled groups exclude people based on the color of their skin.

TAPPER: That’s pretty much a direct quote.

STEELE: That’s a direct quote, and it’s a philosophical position held by a lot of libertarians, which Rand Paul is. They have a very, very strong view about the limitations of government intrusion into the private sector. That is a philosophical perspective. We have had a lot of members go to the United States Senate with a lot of different philosophies, but when they get to the body, how they work to move the country forward matters, and right now, the federal government is not moving forward on BP and cleaning up that mess; the federal government is not moving forward on the economy and creating jobs. There are a lot of — there are a lot of philosophies, a lot of talk on this hill about folks to get stuff done. What the American people are looking for is what are the concrete steps that this administration has taken to clean up the mess in the Gulf before it gets worse, and to create the jobs that are necessary for people to go back to building the economy the way that everybody wants it to be.

TAPPER: Fair enough, but just one more — one more beat on Rand Paul, and that is do you condemn that point of view? I mean, where would African-Americans be if the federal government hadn’t come in and said, hotels, you have to–

STEELE: Exactly. That’s very much a part of the debate back in the ’60s, as it is going forward. But the reality of it is, our party has stood four-square behind, you know–

TAPPER: But do you condemn that view?

STEELE: I can’t condemn a person’s view. That’s like, you know, you believe something and I’m going to say, well, you know, I’m going to condemn your view of it. It’s the people of Kentucky will judge whether or not that’s a view that they would like to send–

TAPPER: Are you comfortable with that?

STEELE: I am not comfortable with a lot of things, but it doesn’t matter what I’m comfortable with and not comfortable with. I don’t vote in that election. The people of Kentucky will. As a national chairman, I’m here to say that our party will move forward in fighting for the civil rights and liberties of the American people, especially minorities in this country, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that everyone who’s going to come to the United States Congress or go to state capitals with a Republican label are in that fight with us.

TAPPER: It sounds like you’re not comfortable with it.

STEELE: I just said I wasn’t comfortable.

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