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Tuesday, 25 May 2010 09:02

Sarah Palin and Dick Armey Perform Damage Control for Rand Paul

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by Jeffrey Joseph

Last week, Tea Party candidate Rand Paul took a major victory for the Tea Party movement in beating out the candidate chosen by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the race to become the Republican candidate for U.S. senator of Kentucky.  Almost immediately, Paul’s success nearly became a failure for the movement due to an interview given by Paul to Rachel Maddow where Paul controversially opposed part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As much as FOX has done its best to prop up the Tea Party since its formation, it seemed only a matter of time before the network came out to vigorously defend Paul’s sentiments. And sure enough, people such as Sarah Palin and Dick Armey, armed with misdirection and misinformation, helped to do just that.

The national media attention began with the superficially unusual pairing of Rachel Maddow and Rand Paul on Maddow’s show. Paul’s saliently conservative perspective made an interview with the famously progressive Maddow strange, but Paul had previously announced his candidacy on her show, so he appeared to respect Maddow on some level. During the interview, Maddow asked Paul to clarify his stance on the Civil Rights Act because previous interviews with other news sources such as NPR suggested he was opposed to at least some part of it. As Paul clarified with Maddow, “There’s ten different Titles, you know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of ten deal with public institutions, and I’m absolutely in favor of [those]. One deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would’ve tried to modify that.” He reiterated his opposition to racism in general but would not commit to saying he would totally oppose the legislation because “this is why it’s a little hard to say exactly where you are sometimes… When you support nine of out of ten things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote for it or against it?”

Consequently, Paul earned considerable ire from the mainstream for suggesting that he may have considered opposing the Civil Rights Act and that he would tolerate racism from private institutions though not public ones. Even GOP Chairman Michael Steele scolded Paul for his stance, telling FOX, “I think in this case Rand Paul’s philosophy got in the way of reality.”

Yet it did not take long for others on FOX to lay the blame for the controversy with Maddow rather than Paul for espousing those beliefs in the first place. Sarah Palin spoke to Chis Wallace on FOX News Sunday and told Wallace she believed Paul supported the Civil Rights Act and made the unsubstantiated claim that “there’s certainly a double standard at play here.” Palin then proceeded to describe Paul’s problem as thinking he could “engage in a discussion with a TV character, a media personality, who, perhaps, maybe had an agenda in asking the question and then interpreting the answer the way she did.”

Failing to see the irony in talking to a FOX colleague about a “media personality” that “maybe had an agenda,” Palin also commented that Paul had “unequivocally stated he supports the Civil Rights Act,” which the Maddow interview shows to be totally untrue. Furthermore, Wallace asked her if the situation held parallels to Palin’s own failed interview with Katie Couric from years ago, one where Palin failed to identify what she even reads or Supreme Court cases she supported. Palin quickly latched onto the idea, saying that Paul had learned, as she claims to have, that he could not “engage in a hypothetical discussion about Constitutional impacts with a reporter or a media personality who has an agenda… They’re looking for that ‘gotcha’ moment.”

Palin has amply shown the paucity of knowledge she has on many topics, as pointed out by none other than FOX colleague Brit Hume, making it hard to believe she could have a hypothetical discussion about any esoteric subject, much less with what she so derisively refers to as a “media personality,” as if Palin herself was not one, as well. Besides that, Paul himself does not appear to agree with Palin’s sentiments about a “gotcha’” moment. As he told a radio program, “The interview, I think, was fair.”

What Paul did decry was the controversy that he contended MSNBC created after the interview, a meme Dick Armey helped to put forth on Monday. As Armey told Fox & Friends, “The fact of the matter is the guy’s getting, he’s getting harangued unreasonably for what is in fact the reasonable expression of ‘I would have done my duty as an elected senator had I been in the Senate at that time.’”

Armey, a longtime leader of the not-so-grassroots Tea Party movement, had a vested interest in downplaying the controversy for the sake of his political movement. Nonetheless, his whitewashing of the issue neglects the fact that Paul had, in fact, suggested he would abide racism from private institutions, not that he would simply offer due diligence, and also that Paul’s views did not suddenly materialize with his appearance on Maddow, but goes back as far as 2002.

Armey’s misdirection on the topic raised in the Maddow interview should hardly surprise viewers, nor should FOX’s tolerance of it. Armey certainly has no love lost for Maddow, especially since Maddow had forced Armey to resign from the position he had outside of his Tea Party involvement. Besides Armey’s dubious credibility on the topic, FOX would likely welcome any support for a candidate that may oppose President Obama in the future seeing as how the network so loathes the president that it even appears to have edited out applause from his speech to West Point cadets.

Rand Paul’s comments with Maddow stirred up new controversy, but Paul had long expressed those sentiments; Maddow just helped to bring them to light. Despite Palin and Armey’s contention to the contrary, Maddow had not tricked Paul into his assertions, nor had she or her network created a false firestorm out of it, as even other Republicans have spoken against Paul’s statements. Airing Palin, who steadfastly proclaims herself a victim of the very media she now partakes in, and Armey, who certainly has lingering resentment toward Maddow, to try to defend Paul simply illustrates the lengths FOX will go to promote its own agenda. If FOX continues to claim itself as a news network, viewers should demand FOX not abide racism or those, like Paul who would abide racism. In lieu of that, FOX could at least to accept those views as controversial rather than blame the furor on everyone but those directly responsible — and in the meantime, choose to Turn Off FOX.

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Originally posted at Turn Off FOX.