NEW YORK – The office of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has issued a statement to WND firing back against any suggestion that his participation in a conference call Wednesday held by a group that supports immigration reform indicates he favors amnesty for illegal aliens.
“Sen. Rand Paul never embraced amnesty on the call,” his office stated in an email. “Sen. Paul has never advocated for amnesty in any other forum and he voted against the Senate immigration bill.
“As a matter of fact, Sen. Paul offered an amendment on the immigration bill last year to strengthen border security by forcing annual votes in Congress before any benefits from the bill were authorized,” the statement said.
WND asked Paul’s office to explain why the senator participated in a call organized by Partnership for a New American Economy and hosted by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, assuming the senator was aware the group has lobbied Congress for immigration reform that would include guest-worker programs and a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens currently in the United States.
A spokesman in Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform office said the regularly scheduled telephone conference call hosted by Norquist is advertised on the group’s website to attract participants.
A press release issued by Partnership for a New American Economy announced Paul joined Norquist “to talk about immigration reform and the Senator’s ideas to strengthen border security, reform existing immigration laws for employers and attempt to find common ground on smaller immigration related matters.”
The Washington Times published a story Wednesday on the conference call with the headline “Rand Paul throws weight behind immigration reform effort.” The Times said Paul, on the heels of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning primary defeat, “on Wednesday waded deeper into an issue that has proved perilous to some of his GOP colleagues, throwing his political weight behind an establishment lobby effort to get Congress to reform the country’s immigration system this year.”
Brian Darling, a spokesman for Paul, told WND the Times story mischaracterized Paul’s position.
“He didn’t go on any call to advocate for the passage of anything,” Darling said. “He was just there to talk about his views on the issue, which he’s talked about a million times before.”
Washington Times responds
Washington Times Editor John Solomon, however, told WND he thought the story was fair. He said it accurately portrayed the fact that Paul spoke with Partnership for a New American Economy and that the group used his appearance to suggest Paul supported immigration reform.
For many conservatives, “immigration reform” is tantamount to “amnesty,” because proposals in Congress promoted with that terminology, including the “Gang of Eight” plan supported by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have included some kind of path to citizenship for illegal aliens.
Solomon said his paper called Paul’s office Wednesday night to confirm that the senator was part of the teleconference.
“They didn’t have any problem with the story going up until the reaction started,” he said. “Then, when the reaction started, they had more to say, and we added it to the story. I think that’s what journalists do.”
An email by the immigration group, Solomon said, confirms that it viewed Paul’s participation in the call as an endorsement for immigration reform.
“The only thing we had wrong was that we weren’t told reporters were on the call,” he said.
“When we learned there were 60 reporters on the call, we changed the story immediately. It doesn’t change the fact that the immigration group took Sen. Rand Paul’s being on the call as an endorsement for immigration reform.”
Solomon explained that Paul gave his paper additional comments Thursday morning, which were added to the article.
“I believe the story as it stands now is accurate,” he said. “If Sen. Paul has more he wants to say we’d be glad to cover it. We’re all about covering the whole story. We’d be glad to get more from them.”
Paul did make a clear statement on immigration Thursday morning in a column published by Breitbart News.
He writes that he’s “for immigration reform because I am against allowing 12 million more illegal immigrants into our country.”
“If we do nothing, 12 million more illegal immigrants will come. We must be in favor of reform — smart reform that starts with border security,” he says.
Then he states emphatically: “Characterizing that position as ‘amnesty’ is simply untrue.”
Paul argues the status quo “is a lawless border.”
“Current policy is a beacon for more illegal immigrants,” he writes. ‘The Obama administration’s lawless executive orders legalizing people who came here illegally will only encourage more illegal immigration — unless we act now with real, strong, verifiable border security.”
Darling told WND the Partnership for a New American Economy had sent a version of its press release to him, and it was supposed to be changed.
“The one I saw was totally different from the Partnership’s press release that I approved,” he said. “I did see one version of it, and the version they published is different. The version that said Rand Paul was on the call to push for immigration reform this year was not approved. Not only was it not approved, we flagged that and told them, do not publish that in any press release.”
He said Paul’s office “never approved any Partnership press release that said Rand Paul was going to push for immigration reform legislation this year, and we specifically asked them not to put that in any press release.”
Darling clarified that Paul does believe in “small changes,” meaning increasing border security, walling off the welfare state to illegal aliens and reforming student visas.
In an interview with WND, Norquist called the Times story “stupid from beginning to end.”
He said the call was simply a tele-press conference with the aim of interviewing Paul and letting the press ask questions.
The Times story, he said, has Paul “calling businessmen to promote immigration reform legislation.”
“That never happened,” he said.”There are 12 newspaper articles in print yesterday within an hour of the call and they got it right. There were 60 press people on the call.”
He said Paul was “talking about what would and wouldn’t happen on immigration reform.”
“He was very strong on border security, and he talked about the need for a robust guest-worker program,” Norquist said. “That’s what he talked about. He never endorsed amnesty.”
Norquist said Paul had “a conversation about people who misuse ‘amnesty’ to mean any changes in the law and said that what we have now is in the category of what critics would say is amnesty.”