Sen. Rand Paul admitted Wednesday that he’s been short-tempered with reporters, but he hit back against criticism that he’s more harsh against female interviewers than males.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on the “The Situation Room,” Paul weighed in on negative attention he’s received over his recent interviews, including one from earlier Wednesday.
The Kentucky Republican, who announced his presidential bid on Tuesday, also commented on the debate on police brutality after the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina.
’Universally short-tempered and testy’
While on a media blitz after announcing his White House campaign, Paul forcefully accused NBC’s Savannah Guthrie of editorializing when she questioned him about apparent changes in his positions over the years.
The reaction prompted a wave of criticism from Democrats, who pointed to another interview Paul did earlier this year in which he shushed a female interviewer.
Paul admitted that he could handle himself better but said he doesn’t just get testy with female reporters.
“I think I should have some more patience, but I think I’m pretty equal opportunity,” Paul said on CNN, adding that he was annoyed with a male reporter earlier in the day. “I will have to get better at holding my tongue and holding my temper.”
Paul said he’s “been universally short tempered and testy” with reporters of both genders and argued that “it’s hard to have a true interaction” with journalists when he’s being interviewed remotely by camera, rather than in person. “Particularly if it’s a hostile interviewer.”
The senator was joining the “Situation Room” remotely from South Carolina where he’s scheduled to hold another rally Thursday to promote his new campaign. It’s part of a four-day swing through early voting states that also includes New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada.
Paul said the shooting, which took place in the Charleston area, was a “terrible tragedy” but cautioned against judging all police officers based on the actions of the officer who’s been charged with murder in Scott’s death.
“I want to be careful we don’t paint with a broad brush that somehow all our police are bad,” Paul said.
The senator has been an active voice in the national debate over demilitarizing police forces since police and protesters clashed in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown back in August.
As racial tensions have escalated, Paul has been calling for criminal justice reform, especially when it comes to the war on drugs, which he said has a disproportionate impact on minorities.
He agreed that body cameras for police officers could help address the problem, though he suggested that should be regulated on the state, not federal, level.
“While there are accusations that are justified, there are also some unjustified accusations against police, and I think the cameras will protect good policeman, which I think are the vast majority of the police,” he said.”
Paul argued Wednesday that low-income communities are also at a disadvantage in defending themselves.
“Sometimes poor people may not be getting same representation as rich people get,” he said, adding that people are being deprived of their right to a fair and speedy trial. “That shouldn’t be happening, I want to be part of trying to fix that.”
More issues of the day
Now on the presidential stage, all of Paul’s positions are getting renewed scrutiny, including his views on abortion. Paul has supported anti-abortion legislation that both include and exclude exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Asked where he comes down on the exceptions, Paul, an ophthalmologist, said Wednesday that it’s a complicated issue.
“Somehow we have to decide when a baby gets rights,” he said, arguing that people generally believe a one-pound baby born prematurely has more rights than a larger baby that’s been aborted. “It seems like an abrupt diminution of rights.”
“I personally believe that life is special, that human life is special and there’s a sanctity – that we’re more than just clay and dirt,” he said.
“Anything that puts forward and develops and says, you know, what there is something special about life and there’s a role for government, I’ve supported,” he said. “That’s been a variety of things, both with exceptions and without.”
On those attack adds
Paul also responded to a new wave of ads by a group that’s critical of Paul’s foreign policy. The Foundation for a Secure & Prosperous America, as part of a $1 million ad buy, released a new spot Wednesday accusing Paul of being too soft on Iran.
“Our national security is not threatened by Iran having a nuclear weapon,” Paul had said in 2007.
The senator, who’s worked to fight off skepticism of his views on foreign affairs, said “the whole thing is a farce” perpetuated by “neocons.”
“Even in 2007, I did believe that Iran was potentially a threat,” he said on CNN. “Now eight years later, which is a long time, I think the threat has become heightened.”
Running against Hillary
For much of the past year, Paul has also been one of the loudest critics of Hillary Clinton as she’s been laying the groundwork for another presidential bid. That was no different Wednesday when Paul used the breach into the White House computer system by Russian hackers as a reason to criticize Clinton for using her own server during her tenure as secretary of state.
“This is one of the concerns about Hillary Clinton in using a private server, that she may have opened up herself to espionage,” he said. “We may never know the truth because she erased the files.”