Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney and congressional reporter Carl Hulse carved up "Tea Party candidate" Rand Paul, winner of Tuesday's Senate Republican primary in Kentucky, in a front-page story Friday: "Tea Party Pick Causes Uproar On Civil Rights."
The outcry from the left came after controversial comments the libertarian Rand made on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show, arguing that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should not have applied to private businesses. The Times quickly reminded its readers in both the headline and lead that Paul was the "Tea Party candidate."
Rand Paul, the Tea Party candidate who challenged the Republican establishment to win the party's Senate nomination in Kentucky two days ago, criticized a landmark civil rights law on Thursday, landing himself in a potentially damaging dispute over civil rights and race.
In doing so, he provided Democrats an opportunity to portray him as extreme and renewed concern among Republicans that his views made him vulnerable in a general election.
Mr. Paul, in a series of television and radio interviews, suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was too broad and should not apply to private businesses, such as luncheonettes. As his statements drew a swarm of attacks from his opponents, Mr. Paul issued a statement declaring that he would not support repealing the landmark 1964 statute and blaming political opponents for trying to distort his views by saying he favored repeal.
The Tea Party phenomenon has provided a bolt of energy for the Republican Party. But the case of Mr. Paul also shows the risks that have emerged as new figures move to the forefront of conservative politics, as candidates with little experience and sometimes unorthodox policy positions face the kind of scrutiny and pressure that could trip up even the most experienced politicians.
After gutting Paul's libertarian views, the Times made a weaker attack: Paul partied at a country club on election night, a non-event somehow portrayed as hypocritical.
Mr. Paul also found himself on the defensive on Thursday when he sought to justify his decision to hold his election night celebration at a country club in Bowling Green, arguing that was not in any way at variance with the grass-roots movement he has come to epitomize.