Sen. Rand Paul is game for plenty of interviews. His approach to the media is the opposite of the prevent defense Mitt Romney played. I like accessibility and willingness to engage, but Paul may find he needs to seek a happy medium that would prevent an interview as needlessly testy and unhelpful as the one he had with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans today.
During the 9-minute interview, Paul had interesting things to say, he and Evans hashed out some details of a bipartisan tax holiday proposal, and he made a more nuanced point about voluntary vaccinations— namely about the Hep B vaccination, which has become standard issue at birth, but which along with HPV falls into the category of helpful preventive vaccines that do not constitute a huge public health risk when refused or delayed.
He also did two things that will completely overshadow any of the things he said in the interview, with good reason. 1) He offered a version of the vaccination fear-mongering that Rep. Michele Bachmann offered during a 2012 presidential debate. Face. Palm.
“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”
He made this point after a defense of freedom coupled with a pitch for more public awareness. But here’s the thing: a senator (and doctor) saying on national TV that he’s heard of kids losing all their faculties after vaccines, suggesting a causal link, is exactly the opposite of the public awareness campaign Paul says he’s confident can take the place of mandatory vaccination. He is working against his own cause, here, and giving a bunch of people a senator on whom to hang their decision to raise a bunch of adorable measles incubators. I tried to be as fair as possible to him by listening to the whole interview, but dude.
This is further frustrating because the combination of Bachmann and Paul gives the press the opportunity to peg anti-vaccination sentiment as yet another instance of “anti-science” GOP neanderthals ruining everyone’s lives. The anti-vaccination movement, of course, does not find its most enthusiastic adherents in the elderly population of Omaha. No, in fact, anti-vaccination sentiment correlates with being a rich L.A. denizen, a young adult, a super-crunchy hippie, and a Jenny McCarthy fan. So, you know, not exactly the Tea Party. But the media will be more than happy to ignore the diversity of the anti-vax crowd when given an opportunity to blame conservatives for it, so stop giving them the chance, please. It’s bad for their brands, the party’s brand, and most importantly, for public health.
Update: Katherine Miller makes this point, but better here: “With Vaccines, Republicans Are Pandering to the Wrong Fringe”
2) He shushed the anchor, actually putting his finger over his lips and telling her to calm down. For the record, I watched the whole interview, and she didn’t really need to calm down. Even if he thought her questions were biased, her approach was nowhere near abusive or out of line.
I’m a little unclear on why he was so upset with her. Annoyance would have been fine, but this was an overreaction—an overreaction that came off condescending and reinforcing of another unhelpful GOP stereotype.
At the end of the interview, Paul expressed his disgust with the questions, suggesting Evans hadn’t gotten any useful information out of him because of her bias. One can always quibble over a reporter’s objectivity, but it was Paul who obscured any good information in his interview by putting out bad.
The full interview is above, and the Free Beacon has the highlights: