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
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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.

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