NPR Pressed Rand Paul on 1964 Laws, But Couldn't Press Sestak on His 2009 Claim of a White House Bribe

Liberal media outlets were quick to pounce on the new Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky about his views on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not just Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, but NPR All Things Considered anchor Robert Siegel on Wednesday night. The sharp questioning of Paul is a contrast with NPR's interview with Joe Sestak, the new Democrat Senate nominee in Pennsylvania in the same newscast.

NPR anchor Michele Norris glanced right past an important, newsworthy, unresolved issue in Sestak's race, from much more recent history: did the Obama White House bribe him with a job offer to stay out of the primary, as he claimed last year?

NORRIS: It's been reported that the White House at one point tried to get you to back away from this race. Who told you to back down?

SESTAK: Well...

NORRIS: And did that continue even after you started to gain on Arlen Specter?

SESTAK: You know, it's interesting, I was asked that question once seven months after it happened last summer. And I answered it and said, yes, someone did. But other than that, to go beyond it, it's just - it's politics. It's dealing making that, frankly, I think makes the system in Washington, D.C. a little broken. And that's what people don't like. So I told the individual, look, I'm getting this 'cause I don't think the deal helps Pennsylvanians. I wouldn't get out for a deal. I'd get out only if it were to be the right thing and it wasn't.

And the fact that the working families in Pennsylvania endorsed me yesterday to be their fighter for them - 'cause they know you just don't vote for change, you got to go in there and fight for change in a broken Washington, D.C. - I think validated that decision to get in.

Norris offered no follow-up to arrive at specifics: Sestak alleged Team Obama made a job offer.  Shouldn't reporters be interested in who was bribing Sestak, or if not, why Sestak lied? Contrast this with Siegel's persistent pressure on Paul to define just how libertarian he is:

SIEGEL: You've said that business should have the right to refuse service to anyone, and that the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA, was an overreach by the federal government. Would you say the same by extension of the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

PAUL: What I've always said is that I'm opposed to institutional racism, and I would've, had I've been alive at the time, I think, had the courage to march with Martin Luther King to overturn institutional racism, and I see no place in our society for institutional racism.

SIEGEL: But are you saying that had you been around at the time, you would have - hoped that you would have marched with Martin Luther King but voted with Barry Goldwater against the 1964 Civil Rights Act?

PAUL: Well, actually, I think it's confusing on a lot of cases with what actually was in the civil rights case because, see, a lot of the things that actually were in the bill, I'm in favor of. I'm in favor of everything with regards to ending institutional racism. So I think there's a lot to be desired in the civil rights. And to tell you the truth, I haven't really read all through it because it was passed 40 years ago and hadn't been a real pressing issue in the campaign, on whether we're going for the Civil Rights Act.

SIEGEL: But it's been one of the major developments in American history in the course of your life. I mean, do you think the '64 Civil Rights Act or the ADA for that matter were just overreaches and that business shouldn't be bothered by people with the basis in law to sue them for redress?

PAUL: Right. I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two- story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.

SIEGEL: How do you feel about the degree of federal involvement in oversight of the mining and oil drilling industries?

PAUL: I think that most manufacturing and mining should be under the purview of state authorities. It's kind of interesting that, you know, when the EPA was originally instituted, it wasn't even passed by Congress. It was passed as an executive order by Nixon. And I think there is some overreach in the sense that the EPA now says: You know what, if Congress doesn't pass greenhouse emissions regulations or testing, we'll simply do it on our own. I think that's an arrogance of a regulatory body ran amok.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson's brazen declaration that she would go around Congress to regulate carbon emissions caused no hint of scandal among the liberal media.

Norris also failed the contrast with Siegel's aren't-you-a-bit-fringy Paul interview in that she never pressed Sestak on how liberal he was in contrast to his Republican opponent, Pat Toomey.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis