Fight Or Flight: Rand Paul’s Contentious History With The Press

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The launch of Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) presidential campaign this week was quickly overshadowed by a string of spats with the media.

A viral exchange with a female NBC anchor, which was his second high-profile contentious interview with a female reporter this year, led Paul to acknowledge to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he would “have to get better at holding my tongue and holding my temper.”

He insisted that the interviewers’ gender had nothing to do with his prickliness, though. “I think I’ve been universally short tempered and testy with both male and female reporters. I’ll own up to that,” Paul told Blitzer.

Paul may own up to getting short with some news personalities, but he’s appeared to have fled a couple potentially uncomfortable media situations as well. Here are some examples of Paul’s fight-or-flight responses to the press (and if you catch any we’ve missed, shoot an email to talk@talkingpointsmemo.com).

May 2010: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

Paul’s first big media feud was sparked when he appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” as a Senate candidate in 2010. Maddow questioned Paul about the Civil Rights Act, which he said should not prevent private businesses from being able to exercise their “free speech” — which meant freedom to discriminate. Paul accused Maddow of throwing a “red herring” into the discussion.

January 2012: Mother Jones’ David Corn

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mother Jones’ David Corn was working on a story about racist content that appeared in a newsletter sent out in the 1980s and 1990s under the name of Rand’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Corn asked the younger Paul about the newsletter in the spin room after a presidential debate, but the senator turned his back to the reporter.

August 2014: A ‘kamikaze’ interview with DREAMers

At an August 2014 event in Iowa, two immigration activists approached Paul and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to talk about deferred deportation for child immigrants. An aide whisked Paul away from the table as soon as the two activists identified themselves. The senator later explained that he didn’t take part in the activists’ “kamikaze interview” because he had to make another media appearance.

February 2015: CNBC’s Kelly Evans

Paul accused CNBC anchor Kelly Evans of mischaracterizing legislation on tax holidays before telling her to “calm down” and shushing her in this February interview.

February 2015: Yahoo News’ Katie Couric

Paul bristled when Yahoo anchor Katie Couric pressed him to state whether he supported putting American boots on the ground in the Middle East to combat the Islamic State terror group.

April 2015: NBC’s Savannah Guthrie

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When “Today” anchor Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday told Paul that his position on several foreign policy issues had shifted over the years, the senator accused her of “editorializing.” He went on to try to teach her how to conduct a fair interview.

April 2015: The Associated Press

Just hours after the interview with Guthrie, the AP’s Phillip Elliot wrote that Paul got “testy” when pressed about what exceptions the senator felt should be allowed in legislation banning abortions

April 2015: The Guardian

When The Guardian’s Paul Lewis on Friday asked Paul how he thought he could win the Republican presidential nomination with messaging on criminal justice reform, Paul apparently walked out of the interview.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

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