Coverage: Gulf Coast Oil Spill
WASHINGTON — Taking another unconventional stand, Kentucky's Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul criticized President Barack Obama's handling of the Gulf oil spill Friday as anti-business and sounding "really un-American."
Paul's defense of oil company BP PLC came during an interview as he tried to explain his controversial take on civil rights law, an issue that seemed to suddenly swamp his campaign after his victory in Tuesday's GOP primary.
"What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'" Paul said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America." ''I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told CNN on May 2: "Our job basically is to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum."
Other Republicans have criticized the administration's handling of the oil spill, but few have been so vocal in defending BP, the company responsible for the deep well and offshore rig that exploded last month, killing 11 workers and spewing millions of gallons of oil.
Paul appeared two days after a landslide primary victory over the Republican establishment's candidate, Trey Grayson. He has been scrambling to explain remarks suggesting businesses be allowed to deny service to minorities without fear of federal interference, even though he says he personally abhors discrimination. On Friday he said he wouldn't seek to repeal the Civil Rights Act or Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, among other areas.
On the oil spill, Paul, a libertarian and tea party favorite, said he had heard nothing from BP indicating it wouldn't pay for the spill that threatens devastating environmental damage along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
"And I think it's part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it's always got to be somebody's fault instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen," Paul said.
The Senate candidate also referred to a Kentucky coal mine accident that killed two men, saying he had met with the families and he admired the coal miners' courage.
"We had a mining accident that was very tragic. ... Then we come in and it's always someone's fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen," he said.
An eye doctor and political novice, Paul defeated a rival recruited by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. He immediately invited Obama, whose approval ratings in Kentucky are fairly low, to campaign for the state's Democrats.
Paul, 47, credited tea party activists with powering him to victory. The first opinion poll since then showed him with a wide lead over his Democratic rival, Jack Conway.
Paul blamed the 24-hour news cycle for the controversy over his civil rights law comments, a point his father, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, endorsed.
In a sometimes testy exchange with reporters in the Capitol on Thursday, the elder Paul said liberals were treating his son unfairly and reporters were hoping to stop his political momentum with "gotcha" questions based on out-of-context remarks.
"Making something out of nothing is just not fair," he said.
Associated Press writers David Espo and Charles Babington contributed to this report.