Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - May 23, 2010

May 24, 2010 10:21 am ET

On Sunday, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul's position on civil rights legislation dominated the political shows despite Paul's decision to bail on Meet the Press. Sarah Palin pushed the false notion that Paul was tricked by journalists, and Sen. John Cornyn downplayed the whole affair as a "stumble." But in reality Paul has consistently stated a sincere, controversial position. Elsewhere, Palin and Michael Steele leveled false attacks at the Obama administration's response to the oil spill in the gulf. The GOP leaders each charged that the government response has been slow. The fact is that the administration was involved from the morning after the explosion.

Rand Paul

CLAIM: Sarah Palin Claimed That Rand Paul Was Victim Of 'Gotcha' Journalists Who Seek To Misrepresent His Position On The Civil Rights Act Of 1964.

SARAH PALIN: [Paul] wanted to talk about, evidently, some hypotheticals as it applies to impacts on- the Civil Rights Act, as it impacts our Constitution. So he was given the opportunity finally to clarify and unequivocally he has stated that he supports the Civil Rights Act.

CHRIS WALLACE (host): Do you see some similarities to what politicians and the press did to you in the fall of 2008?

PALIN: Yeah, absolutely. So um, y'know one thing we can learn in this lesson that um, I have learned and Rand Paul is learning now is, don't assume that you can engage in a hypothetical discussion about Constitutional impacts with a reporter or a media personality who has an agenda, who may be prejudiced before they even get into the interview in regards to what your answer may be, and then the opportunity that they seize to getcha. Y'know, they're looking for that "gotcha" moment, and that's what it-it-evidently appears to be that they did with Rand Paul." [Fox News Sunday, 5/23/10]

CLAIM: Sen. John Cornyn Misrepresented Rand Paul's Long-Held Position On The Role Of Government In Protecting Civil Rights As A "Stumble."

CORNYN: Well Dr. Paul's new to uh, running for public office and uh, I think it's uh, Bob's experience, I'm sure my experience that uh, you see uh, novice candidates occasionally stumble on questions. I think he's clarified his position... He's opposed to any kind of discrimination, period. And I applaud him for clarifying that view. I just think that every time you have a citizen who decides to run for public office who's not a professional politician that occasionally they're gonna stumble. [Meet the Press, 5/23/10]

FACT: Rand Paul repeatedly said he doesn't believe government should have power to prohibit discrimination in private business.

Paul: "Had I Been Around I Would Have Tried To Modify" Civil Rights Act To Protect Private Business's Right To Discriminate. In an appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show, Paul said:

RAND PAUL: There's ten different titles, y'know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of ten deal with public institutions, and I'm absolutely in favor of. One deals with private institutions, and had I been around I would have tried to modify that. But you know the other thing about legislation-and this is why it's a little hard to say exactly where you are sometimes-- is that when you support nine out of ten things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote for it or against it? And I think sometimes those are difficult situations... But had I been there, there would have been some discussion over one of the titles of the civil rights, and I think that's a valid point, still a valid discussion, because the thing is, is if we wanna harbor in on private businesses and their policies, then you have to have the discussion about do you want to abridge the first amendment as well? [The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/19/10]

Paul: "I Don't Like The Idea Of Telling Private Business Owners" They Cannot Discriminate. In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Paul had the following exchange with his interviewer:

Interviewer: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Paul: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public, um, uh, domains, and I'm all in favor of that.

Interviewer: But?

Paul: [Laughs] You had to ask me the "but." Um, I don't like the idea of telling private business owners--I abhor racism, I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant--but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I think there should be absolutely no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that's most of what the Civil Rights Act was about, uh, to my mind.

[Louisville Courier-Journal, April 2010]

2002 Paul: "A Free Society...Means Allowing Hate-Filled Groups To Exclude People Based On The Color Of Their Skin." In 2002, Paul wrote a letter to a Kentucky newspaper opposing the Federal Fair Housing Act. The letter says in part:

"Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual's beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn't want noisy children? Absolutely not.

Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate... A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination - even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin." [PageOneKentucky.com, 5/20/10, emphasis added]

FACT: In clarifying his position, Paul still has not supported using government power to prevent private businesses from discriminating.

Paul Campaign Statement: My Issues With The Civil Rights Act Of 1964 "Have Been Settled By Federal Courts." According to the Huffington Post: "Rand Paul's campaign has now issued a lengthy statement about his views on the Civil Rights Act... 'As I have said in previous statements, sections of the Civil Rights Act were debated on Constitutional grounds when the legislation was passed. Those issues have been settled by federal courts in the intervening years.'" [Huffington Post, 5/20/10]

Paul Spokesman-- Not Paul Himself-- Said Senate Candidate Supports Federal Power To Prohibit Discrimination By Businesses, Now That Courts Have Upheld Those Powers. According to the Washington Post: "Asked for further clarification, Jesse Benton, a spokesman for the Paul campaign, confirmed that Paul does in fact think the Federal government should have the power to ban private businesses from commiting [sic] racial discrimination. He told me: 'Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to ensure that private businesses don't discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers.'" [Washington Post, 5/20/10]

Paul: It's Not Me, It's The "Loony Left." According to Politico: "Rand Paul lashed out at the 'loony left' for pressing him on his view of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in an interview with Laura Ingraham this morning. 'I've never really favored any change in the Civil Rights Act,' he said. 'They seem to have unleashed some of the loony left on me.'" [Politico, 5/20/10]

Paul Campaign Cancelled Scheduled Appearance On Meet The Press, Saying "We Are Done Talking About It." According to the Huffington Post: "A spokesperson for [Paul] informed NBC News late Friday afternoon that an exhausted Paul was canceling his interview on Sunday's 'Meet the Press,' Betsy Fischer, the executive producer for the program, told the Huffington Post. 'Rand did Good Morning America today, set the record straight, and now we are done talking about it,' Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton told the Washington Post. 'No more national interviews on the topic.' If Paul were to follow through on his decision to not appear on 'Meet the Press' it would be, as Fischer describes it, 'a big deal.' There have been only two other guests in the program's 62-year history to have canceled last minute: Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar bin Khaled al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia." [Huffington Post, 5/21/10]

Oil Spill in the Gulf

CLAIM: Sarah Palin Claimed The Obama Administration Has Responded Slowly To The Gulf Oil Spill.

SARAH PALIN: I don't know why the question isn't asked by the mainstream media and by others if there's any connection with the contributions made to President Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration, if there's any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico. [Fox News Sunday, 4/23/10]

CLAIM: Michael Steele Claimed The Obama Administration Is Not Helping BP In Its Response To The Gulf Oil Spill.

MICHAEL STEELE: It is one thing to actually get on the ground and get in front of this thing. It's another thing to sit back and hold BP accountable without helping them. And that's what's happening here. The Federal government should've stepped into this thing, uh, immediately, uh, to help make sure that the appropriate steps were being taken by BP, all federal agencies in support of the state government to try to get this thing cleaned up, and here we are almost a month and a half later and it's still spilling oil. [This Week, 4/23/10]

FACT: Timeline shows Obama administration was closely involved in the search and rescue and cleanup efforts starting the morning after the explosion.

April 20 (10 p.m.): Oil Rig Explosion. According to ABC: "An overnight explosion in the Gulf of Mexico rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the Louisiana coast, sending spectacular bursts of flame into the sky. The fires were still raging today." [ABCNews.com, 4/21/10]

April 21: After Briefing, President Dispatches Deputy Secretary of Interior, Coast Guard To The Region. In a statement, Robert Gibbs said: "The President was briefed in the Oval Office this afternoon by a number of senior officials including Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, Admiral Thad Allen, United States Coast Guard Commandant, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar...as well as a host of senior white house officials... The United States Coast Guard informed the President that search and rescue efforts are ongoing. The President made sure that the entire federal government was offering all assistance needed in the rescue effort as well as in mitigating and responding to the environmental impact and that this response was being treated as the number one priority... Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes was dispatched to the region yesterday to assist with coordination and response." [WhiteHouse.gov, 4/22/10]

  • BP Confirms U.S. Coast Guard Was "Leading The Emergency Response." In an April 21 press release, British Petroleum stated that it was "working closely with Transocean and the U.S. Coast Guard, which is leading the emergency response, and had been offering its help - including logistical support." [BP.com, 4/21/10]
  • CNN.com: "The U.S. Coast Guard Launched A Major Search Effort." According to CNN:

The U.S. Coast Guard launched a major search effort Wednesday for 11 people missing after a "catastrophic" explosion aboard an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico engulfed the drilling platform in flames.

Another 17 people were injured -- three critically -- in the blast aboard the Deepwater Horizon, which occurred about 10 p.m. Tuesday. The rig was about 52 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana, said Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O'Berry. As of late afternoon Wednesday as many as six firefighting vessels were working to contain the massive fire caused by the explosion.

"It obviously was a catastrophic event," O'Berry said.

[CNN.com, 4/22/10]

April 23: Coast Guard "Focused On Mitigating The Impact Of The Product Currently In The Water." On April 23, the Coast Guard stated:

The Department of the Interior, MMS [the U.S. Minerals Management Service], and the Coast Guard continue to support the efforts of the responsible parties to secure all potential sources of pollution. Both federal agencies have technical teams in place overseeing the proposals by BP and Transocean to completely secure the well. Until that has occurred and all parties are confident the risk of additional spill is removed, a high readiness posture to respond will remain in place. 

Although the oil appears to have stopped flowing from the well head, Coast Guard, BP, Transocean, and MMS remain focused on mitigating the impact of the product currently in the water and preparing for a worst-case scenario in the event the seal does not hold. Visual feed from deployed remotely operated vehicles with sonar capability is continually monitored in an effort to look for any crude oil which still has the potential to emanate from the subsurface well.

"From what we have observed yesterday and through the night, we are not seeing any signs of release of crude in the subsurface area. However we remain in a 'ready to respond' mode and are working in a collaborative effort with BP, the responsible party, to prepare for a worst-case scenario," Landry stated early Friday morning.

[D8ExternalAffairs.com, 4/23/10]

April 25: Storms Delay Response Efforts. According to the Associated Press: "Stormy weather delayed weekend efforts to mop up leaking oil from a damaged well after the explosion and sinking of a massive rig off Louisiana's Gulf Coast that left 11 workers missing and presumed dead... The bad weather began rolling in Friday as strong winds, clouds and rain interrupted efforts to contain the spill. Coast Guard Petty Officer John Edwards said he was uncertain when weather conditions would improve enough for cleanup to resume. So far, he said, crews have retrieved about 1,052 barrels of oily water." [AP, 4/25/10 via SunTimes.com]

April 28: Federal Officials Realize Spill Was Far More Severe Than BP Led Them To Believe. According to the New York Times: "Government officials said late Wednesday night that oil might be leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico at a rate five times that suggested by initial estimates. In a hastily called news conference, Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry of the Coast Guard said a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had concluded that oil is leaking at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, not 1,000 as had been estimated. While emphasizing that the estimates are rough given that the leak is at 5,000 feet below the surface, Admiral Landry said the new estimate came from observations made in flights over the slick, studying the trajectory of the spill and other variables." [New York Times, 4/28/10]

April 29: Napolitano Declares Spill "Of National Significance." In a press conference, Secretary Napolitano said: "Last night BP alerted us to additional oil leaking from their deep underwater well.  They are working, with our support, to estimate the size of this breach. As has just been mentioned, the President has urged, out of an abundance of caution and mindful of new and evolving information, that we must position resources to continue to confront this spill. That being said, we have been anticipating and planning, and today I will be designating that this is a spill of national significance.  What that means is that we can now draw down assets from across the country, other coastal areas, by way of example; that we will have a centralized communications because the spill is now crossing different regions." [WhiteHouse.gov, 4/29/10, emphasis added]

  • EPA Preparing For Oil To Hit Shore. In a press briefing, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said: "[A]s the oil does hit the shoreline, EPA will provide support to assess the impacts on the coastal shoreline and play a key role in implementing the cleanup. As a daughter of the Gulf Coast, I know that it is our job to ensure people that we will be eyes and ears working with the states who have valuable and vital resources to monitor air, water and land quality." [WhiteHouse.gov, 4/29/10]
  • AP: "Air Force Sends Planes To Help With Gulf Oil Spill." According to the Associated Press: "Two Air Force planes have been sent to Mississippi and were awaiting orders to start dumping chemicals on the oil spill threatening the coast, as the government worked Friday to determine how large a role the military should play in the cleanup." [AP, 4/30/10 via AJC.com]
  • WSJ: Navy Joins Obama's "Robust Response." According to the Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. Navy said it will send more than 12 additional miles of inflatable oil booms to the Gulf, as well as seven towable skimming systems and 50 contractors with experience operating the equipment... Mr. Obama also ordered a more robust response to the spill from the military and federal agencies. The U.S. Navy said it will send more than 12 additional miles of inflatable oil booms to the Gulf, as well as seven towable skimming systems and 50 contractors with experience operating the equipment, according to military officials at the Pentagon. The Navy is making two large facilities available to the Coast Guard personnel and BP-employed contractors who are currently taking the lead in fighting the spill. Military officials said the booms and skimmers were being sent to a Naval construction base in Gulfport, Miss. The Navy also opened its air base in Pensacola, Fla., to the effort." [Wall Street Journal, 4/30/10]

See a more complete timeline of the response here