POLITICS
11/20/2014 02:15 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2014

Rand Paul Honestly Thinks He's Congress' Biggest Defender Of Minority Rights

Confronted about his involvement in numerous controversies involving race, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in an interview published Thursday that nobody in Congress has fought harder than he has for the rights of minorities.

"I don't think there has been anybody who has been a bigger defender of minority rights in the Congress than myself, and that's not saying others aren't trying as well," Paul said in an interview with Salon.

It should be noted that Paul serves alongside Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement. Widely considered to be an icon of the movement, Lewis has been repeatedly awarded for his work on minority rights, even receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the country's highest civilian honor -- in 2011.

And Paul's own history with minority rights has had bumps.

Paul took heat in 2013 when it was reported Jack Hunter, one of Paul's aides, had made comments at a previous job as a radio show host in support of the Confederacy and in praise of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. After that aide resigned, Paul told The Huffington Post some of his comments were "absolutely stupid," but he defended the choice to hire Hunter as an aide.

"People are calling him a white supremacist," Paul told The Huffington Post. "If I thought he was a white supremacist, he would be fired immediately. If I thought he would treat anybody on the color of their skin different than others, I'd fire him immediately."

He also received criticism when he gave a 2013 speech at the historically black Howard University and tried to clarify comments he had made in 2010 about the Civil Rights Act.

"I've never been against the Civil Rights Act, ever, and I continue to be for the Civil Rights Act as well as the Voting Rights Act," Paul said in his 2013 speech.

When asked Thursday about his comments to Salon on minority rights, a spokesman for Paul said "the statement speaks for itself" and pointed to five pieces of legislation the senator has introduced this Congress, including the Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act of 2014.

Salon asked Paul if he thought the controversies could affect a potential 2016 run.

"People will always do things for partisan purposes, and I think some of that drummed up in the beginning for partisan purposes when I was running for office," Paul said. "But no, I don't think there's anything out there that people are going to say, 'Oh, look at this, this means that you're a racist,' or something, and I think if they do, they probably pigeonhole themselves as being unreasonable by making that kind of comment."

The Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have not responded to HuffPost's requests for comment.

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