Rand Paul Fights the Press

by Robert Costa

After facing plagiarism charges, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky spent much of Tuesday apologizing for making mistakes. In a statement, Doug Stafford, Paul’s top political aide, pledged to fix the office’s “approval process.” Paul, for his part, told several reporters he would revamp his citation methods, and he promised to provide footnotes for future speeches and columns.

But Paul’s repentant tone ended there. In an interview with National Review Online on Capitol Hill, Paul was furious, especially with the press coverage of the allegations. “It annoys the hell out of me,” Paul said. “I feel like if I could just go to detention after school for a couple days, then everything would be okay. But do I have to be in detention for the rest of my career?”

Paul, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, also said he is sensitive about his character being questioned. “What makes me mad about the whole thing is that I believe there is a difference between errors of omission and errors of intention,” he said. “We aren’t perfect and we have made errors of omission, but we never intended to mislead anybody.”

Moving forward, Paul said he would speak out more against media outlets that are covering him, especially if he feels unfairly targeted. His once warm relations with the Fourth Estate have chilled. “I’m being criticized for not having proper attribution, and yet they are able to write stuff that if I were their journalism teacher in college, I would fail them,” he said.

Paul acknowledges that he didn’t adequately cite Wikipedia in a recent speech in which he referred to the 1990s science-fiction film Gattaca, and that he has made errors in his books and his Washington Times column, which has been canceled by the newspaper. But, he said, the press made too much of his stumbles, and he is unhappy with his mistakes being cast as “plagiarism.”

Specifically, Paul is irritated with the Associated Press and MSNBC for how they covered his talk at Liberty University last month. He didn’t mention abortion, but the Associated Press ended up including the word in its story, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow later focused on Paul’s Gattaca citation.

“After a thoughtful speech, where I made six or eight references to 1984, Gattaca, My Left Foot, Einstein, Ray Bradbury, and Michelangelo, I’m then criticized for taking a couple lines from Wikipedia and nobody reports on what the speech was even about,” Paul said. “At least I saw the movie Gattaca, I read the book 1984. They didn’t even read my damn speech.”