Senator Rand Paul said Wednesday he needs to “get better at holding my temper” after clashing with two reporters who asked him uncomfortable questions about his stance on abortion and foreign aid.
Paul, who announced on Tuesday he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination, has clashed with reporters in the past, several of them female. He denied to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday that his tendency was to interrupt female reporters.
“I think I’ve been universally short tempered and testy with both male and female reporters. I’ll own up to that,” he said.
Paul said it can be difficult when being interviewed and facing only a camera and not being able to see the reporter, “particularly if it’s a hostile interviewer.”
“I do think interviews should be questions and not editorializing. You feel somewhat at a loss at the other end,” he added.
Exhibiting a bit of contrition, Paul said, “I think I should have more patience . I think it’s pretty equal opportunity. I was annoyed with a male reporter this morning. I will have to get better at holding my tongue and holding my temper,” he said.
Paul’s combative day began when he clashed with “Today'”show anchor Savannah Guthrie over what he said was biased questioning.
The interview on Wednesday took a contentious turn when Guthrie began to detail what she said were shifts over the years in his foreign policy views.
“You have had views on foreign policy in the past that are somewhat unorthodox, but you seem to have changed over the years,” Guthrie said. “You once said Iran was not a threat, now you say it is. You once proposed ending foreign aid to Israel, now you support it, at least for the time being. And you once offered to drastically cut –“
Paul, who was speaking by satellite from Nashua, New Hampshire, tried to interject.
“Why don’t you let me explain instead of talking over me, OK?” Paul said. He then advised Guthrie on how to conduct the interview.
“Before we go through a litany of things you say I’ve changed on, why don’t you ask me a question: ‘Have I changed my opinion?'” Paul told Guthrie. “That would be sort of a better way to approach an interview.”
When Guthrie persisted and asked the Republican if Iran is “still not a threat,” Paul said the NBC host had “editorialized.”
“Listen, you’ve editorialized,” Paul said. “Let me answer a question. You ask a question, and you say, ‘Have your views changed?’ instead of editorializing and saying my views have changed.”
Paul contended that his views on foreign aid have been consistent. He said circumstances have changed since 2007 when he suggested that Iran does not pose a threat to the United States.
“Yeah, 2007 was a long time ago, and events do change over long periods of time. So, we’re talking about eight years ago. We’re talking about a time when I wasn’t running for office, when I was helping someone else run for office,” Paul said. “What I would say is that there has always been a threat of Iran gaining nuclear weapons, and I think that’s greater now than it was many years ago. I think we should do everything we can to stop them.”
Later on Wednesday, Paul bristled at a question about abortion while talking with reporters in New Hampshire.
“Why don’t you ask the DNC, ‘Is it OK to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus?'” Paul said, referring to the Democratic National Committee.
His comment came after The Associated Press published a report that said Paul had ducked questions about his views on what exceptions — if any — he’d support if abortion were to be banned. Paul has previously supported measures that included exceptions for situations like rape and incest, as well as measures without those exceptions.
Earlier this year Paul clashed with an interviewer. In February, Paul chastised CNBC anchor Kelly Evans for posing “slanted” questions. When Evans tried to press him on a proposed corporate tax holiday, Paul shushed her.
“Calm down a bit here, Kelly,” Paul told her.
And like his interview with Guthrie on Wednesday, Paul offered Evans a suggestion on how she might conduct a better interview.
“So, frankly, I think if we do this again, you need to try to start out with a little more objectivity going into the interview,” Paul told Evans.
When he was asked about his testy interview with Guthrie later on Wednesday, Paul decried questions about the apparent changes in his positions.
“‘O.K., well we understand that you’ve been beating your wife for years and you’ve flip-flopped on 25 different issues and you used to believe this and you used to believe that,'” he told the New York Times. “That isn’t journalism.”