As fate would have it, recently-announced presidential candidate Rand Paul made a campaign stop in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Thursday, just as one of the nation's biggest stories is developing in the area.
But according to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Paul made a big mistake during the trip by not speaking loudly enough about the killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was shot at eight times by a white North Charleston police officer last weekend. The choice to stay quiet on the subject seemed odd considering Paul has frequently voiced support for criminal justice reform in the past.
"In the midst of this whole national discussion, the whole furor over this South Carolina shooting, Rand Paul took his brand new presidential campaign right to South Carolina today," Maddow said on her program Thursday night, flashing an AP report about the campaign stop on screen. "And he bravely, in the midst of this national discussion on an issue that he wants to be known for, Sen. Rand Paul bravely today, while he was in South Carolina, said nothing about it. Nothing."
Maddow went on to quote both Steve Schmidt and David Axelrod -- the strategists behind the 2008 McCain and Obama campaigns, respectively -- who likened a presidential race to a "full body scan" or an "MRI for the soul" for high-level candidates. The host wondered aloud what would happen when Paul truly starts to feel the full pressure of the press as the 2016 campaign gets underway.
"Rand Paul right now is not to like the first X-ray part of this campaign yet. The press and his rivals for the nomination have only just started to even give him a once over at this point," she said. “It’s gonna be really interesting to see how long does he get to keep getting credit for being a brave criminal justice reformer when he walks into the epicenter of a huge national discussion about race and criminal justice reform and he has absolutely nothing to say about it.”
As Mediaite notes, Paul did in fact speak about the Walter Scott shooting during his trip to South Carolina in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Though the presidential hopeful called Scott's killing a "terrible tragedy," he seemed careful not to criticize law enforcement as a whole.
“First, I would like to say it’s just a terrible tragedy, and I hope justice does occur,” Paul said. “But I do think that sometimes -- the way we report news -- we tend to report the news of crime, and so we see a lot of crime, and we think it’s representative of the whole. And I think when you look at police across our country, 98, 99 percent of them of them are doing their job on a day-to-day basis and aren’t doing things like this.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Scott was shot in the back eight times. Slager fired eight shots, but Scott was hit four times in the back and once in the ear.