Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) suggested Friday that he wouldn't have voted in favor of the 1964 Civil Rights Act if he were a member of Congress at the time.
Paul, the libertarian Texas Republican who formally announced Friday that he would seek the presidency for a third time, said he thought Jim Crow laws were illegal, and warned against turning strict libertarians into demagogues.
"Yeah, but I wouldn't vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws," Paul said. He explained that he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act "because of the property rights element, not because they got rid of the Jim Crow laws."
Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), faced criticism during his campaign for Senate last fall because of similar remarks he made, also during an appearance on MSNBC. Rand Paul had advanced a similar argument about property rights, and, under political pressure, issued a follow-up statement in which he voiced support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and would not support any efforts to repeal it.
Some libertarians argue that the government overstepped its authority in the landmark legislation, which sought to ban discrimination by private businesses and organizations. Paul sought to draw a distinction between holding that opinion and supporting the segregation and other tools of discrimination that the '64 law sought to abolish.
"This gimmick, it's off the wall when you say I'm for property rights and for states rights, and therefore I'm a racist," said the Texas congressman. "That's just outlandish."
Paul appealed to the free market, and argued that if a business owner were to post signs declaring segregation in his or her business, people wouldn't patronize it.
"For you to imply that a property rights person is endorsing that stuff, you don't understand that there would be zero signs up today saying something like that," he said. "And if they did they would be an idiot and out of business."