Rand Paul Again Scolds a Reporter for Asking Him Uncomfortable Questions

The new presidential candidate clashed with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in an interview Wednesday morning.

Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
April 8, 2015, 5:20 a.m.

One day in­to his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, Rand Paul is build­ing a repu­ta­tion that could be hard to shake: When he’s con­fron­ted by re­port­ers—es­pe­cially wo­men re­port­ers—about things he doesn’t want to talk about, he gets ant­ag­on­ist­ic.

The latest ex­ample came dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on NBC’s Today show Wed­nes­day morn­ing, when the Ken­tucky sen­at­or took of­fense with Sa­van­nah Gu­thrie’s line of ques­tion­ing.

“You have had views on for­eign policy that are some­what un­ortho­dox, but you seem to have changed over the years,” Gu­thrie said. “You once said Ir­an was not a threat. Now you say it is. You once pro­posed end­ing for­eign aid to Is­rael. You now sup­port it, at least for the time be­ing. And you once offered to drastic­ally cut de­fense spend­ing but now you want to in­crease it by 60 per­cent”—here, Paul tries to in­ter­rupt but Gu­thrie con­tin­ues—”Well, wait. Now you want to in­crease it. I just won­der if you’ve mel­lowed out.”

(RE­LATED: On For­eign Policy, Rand Paul’s Not His Dad. But He’s Not in the Main­stream Either.)

“Why don’t you let me ex­plain in­stead of talk­ing over me, OK?” Paul re­spon­ded.

“Sure,” Gu­thrie said.

Paul then offered Gu­thrie some ad­vice on how she should ask him ques­tions. “Be­fore we go through a lit­any of things you say I’ve changed on, why don’t you ask me a ques­tion: ‘Have I changed my opin­ion?’” he said.

“Have you changed your opin­ion?” Gu­thrie asks.

“That would be sort of a bet­ter way to ap­proach it,” Paul said.

“OK, is Ir­an still a threat?” Gu­thrie pressed on.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Listen, you’ve ed­it­or­i­al­ized,” Paul said. “Let me an­swer a ques­tion. You ask a ques­tion, and you say, ‘Have your views changed?’ in­stead of ed­it­or­i­al­iz­ing and say­ing my views have changed. OK, let’s start out with re­gard to for­eign aid.”

(RE­LATED: Sign up for TwentySix­teenNa­tion­al Journ­al‘s daily guide to 2016)

Paul said that he sup­ports a gradu­al re­duc­tion of for­eign aid to oth­er coun­tries and that he hasn’t pro­posed re­mov­ing aid from Is­rael.”

“But you once did,” Gu­thrie said.

“But I still agree with my ori­gin­al pre­cept, which is—let me an­swer the ques­tion,” Paul said. “I still agree with my ori­gin­al state­ment from years ago that, ul­ti­mately, all na­tions should be free of for­eign aid be­cause we shouldn’t bor­row money to do it.”

Paul en­gaged in a sim­il­ar on-air ex­change with a re­port­er in Feb­ru­ary. When CN­BC’s Kelly Evans asked him about his pro­pos­al for a tax in­cent­ive for U.S. com­pan­ies to bring their over­seas profits back to the United States, Paul be­came de­fens­ive.

(RE­LATED: Rand Paul Bashes Neo­cons and Com­pares GOP Op­pos­i­tion to Jimmy Carter)

“Sen­at­or, I’m sure you know that most of the re­search on this in­dic­ates that this ac­tu­ally costs more money over the long term than they save,” Evans said. “Are you say­ing your plan will be dif­fer­ent?”

“That’s in­cor­rect,” Paul said. “Let’s go back again. Your premise and your ques­tion is mis­taken.”

In the same in­ter­view, the sen­at­or shushed Evans when she asked him about com­ments he made about vac­cines, which he called “vol­un­tary.”

“Let me fin­ish. Hey, Kelly, shh,” Paul said. “Calm down a bit here, Kelly. Let me an­swer the ques­tion.”

In an in­ter­view with Sean Han­nity last night, Paul said, “You should vac­cin­ate your kids.” Also in that in­ter­view, Han­nity asked Paul some un­com­fort­able ques­tions, and the sen­at­or was care­ful not to in­ter­rupt him.

It’s not un­usu­al for Re­pub­lic­an politi­cians to blame the lib­er­al me­dia for “ed­it­or­i­al­iz­ing” or show­ing bi­as. In­deed, after the CN­BC in­ter­view, Paul tweeted a photo of him­self get­ting a shot, with the cap­tion, “Won­der how the lib­er­al me­dia will mis­re­port this?” But such con­front­a­tion­al in­ter­views, from a pub­lic-re­la­tions per­spect­ive, are not a good look for any politi­cian who’s play­ing the long game. As Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Emma Roller wrote in Feb­ru­ary, “While voicing your dis­dain for the press is a tried-and-true strategy for sit­ting pres­id­ents, it can throw politi­cians seek­ing the Oval Of­fice off course and off mes­sage, mak­ing them ap­pear nav­al-gaz­ing and de­fens­ive.”

Gu­thrie is only the first of many, many re­port­ers on a very long cam­paign trail. Dodging ques­tions is one thing. Be­rat­ing re­port­ers for ask­ing them is an­oth­er. While that strategy may en­er­gize your core base in the short term, it could wind up ce­ment­ing a long-last­ing im­age of a can­did­ate who’s quick to shout down tough ques­tions.

What We're Following See More »
Nunes: Incidental Surveillance Was Collected On Trump Transition
3 hours ago

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Wednesday "that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community collected information on U.S. individuals involved in the Trump transition." Nunes also said that information was widely disseminated within the intelligence community even though it had "little or no apparent foreign intelligence value." Nunes did not say who brought the information to his attention, though he did make sure to clarify that it did not come from communications with Russia, meaning Trump aides were speaking with other foreign nationals under U.S. surveillance.

Ryan Asks to Meet with Recalcitrant Republicans Tonight
3 hours ago
Acosta Says He’ll Follow Trump on Fiduciary Rule
5 hours ago

Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta said he'd support President Trump's executive order calling on the department to review Obama-era regulations like the fiduciary rule, requiring financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients. But on the topic of overtime rules, he called it "unfortunate that rules involving dollar values can go more than a decade without adjusting."

House Oversight Committee Gets Involved on Flynn
9 hours ago
GOP Governors Push Back on White House Budget
9 hours ago

As the White House presses "for bone-deep cuts to the federal budget, Republican governors have rapidly emerged as an influential bloc of opposition. They have complained to the White House about reductions they see as harmful or arbitrary, and they plan to pressure members of Congress from their states to oppose them." Of particular concern to them: job-training programs and regional economic development initiatives.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.