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National media reports, critiques WHAS11 interview of Rand Paul

by Joe Arnold


Posted on May 24, 2010 at 10:57 PM

It's been interesting to watch the national media take notice of the interview I did with Rand Paul on Friday at his opthamology practice in Bowling Green (hence the eyeglasses on the wall behind Paul).

My original story aired Friday night at 11pm, and the raw video of the interview was posted on Saturday.  Late Sunday into Monday morning, the Google alerts for "Rand Paul" starting showing up in the e-mail inboxes of columnists, bloggers, pundits and reporters.  And everyone picked up on what they thought was the most significant utterance by Paul.

The first national blog to pick up the interview was Newsbusters, which - like many others - focused on Paul's critique of MSNBC.

The Huffington Post's Sam Stein (Rand Paul: Maddow was fair) claimed credit for discovering my interview:

The local interview, which up to now has not been commented on, is a remarkable illustration of just how Paul's nascent general election campaign became consumed last week with its press coverage.

Jared Keller at The Atlantic Wire:  Happy Hour Vid: Rand Paul Takes On MSNBC.

Jon Bershad at Mediaite: Rand Paul Attacks MSNBC As Biased And Unfair (Except Maddow)

 Paul made these statements in a fascinating interview with Joe Arnold of WHAS11. Arnold asked him how he felt about his recent media exposure and the candidate was quick to discuss his displeasure with Chris Matthews and MSNBC.

Some reports took notice of other nuances in the interview:

Talking Points Memo Muckraker:


 "Paul also seemed to be at pains to present himself as reconciled to the key programmatic elements of the Great Society. "To me, I look at government as not a utopian ideal that we can get to," he said. "But I can have a philosophic discussion with you over utopian ideals. But when I look at it, I say, 'How do we fix Medicare, how do we fix social security so another generation gets it?' We've all paid into it. Its not a discussion over whether we're having it or not having it, let's try to fix it."

Meanwhile, the Washington Post's David Weigel slams the WHAS11 interview, suggesting that my questions of Paul were not quite up to his tough standards (apparently MSNBC's Keith Olbermann also thinks I did not ask the right questions).

The short conversation is well worth watching to get a sense of the questions Paul was used to before becoming a national star. Josh Green suggested that the media in Kentucky was unusually toothless, but I didn't see much tougher coverage coming from the national press. The difference now is that the local press can get access to Paul by not jumping on the bandwagon.

On that last point, Weigel owes me an apology.  He implies that the local press, namely me, has some agreement with Paul as to what questions I will ask, or that I am unwilling to ask tough questions.

My view of my performance is certainly biased, but I believe that I was persistent in seeking both clarification and comment on the Civil Rights Act controversy, while also seeking some new information.  By the time I got to Paul on Friday, he had already clarified his Civil Rights Act stance on both CNN with Wolf Blitzer and on ABC's Good Morning America.  I could have exhausted my limited time with Paul for what would have essentially been a repeat of those other interviews, or I could try to break new ground.

For instance, I sought an indication of how Paul's limited government view would affect specific bureaucracies, such as the Department of Education.  Some real news to come out of this interview is that Paul backed off his earlier stated position that the Education Department be abolished.  But, in the clatter of the firestorm, that point was lost on most critics. 

I mentioned in the story that Paul ended the interview when he took a telephone call (which I later learned was from Senator Mitch McConnell).  I had hoped for a few more minutes for questions regarding other governmental agencies and departments (such as Agriculture, Commerce, OSHA and the EPA), but Paul decided he had had enough of interviews and photographer Donnie Ruark and I packed up for the two hour drive back to Louisville.

I do plan on asking Paul those questions.  While the national media's focus will stray, I will continue to cover this race and talk to the candidates about the decisions they would make as U.S. Senators.