AN EASILY DEBUNKED DENIAL…. After multiple interviews in which Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul explained his opposition to the Civil Rights Act infringing on private enterprise, his campaign aides have decided to try a new tack. As of this afternoon, the new strategy is to simply pretend that the positions the candidate has already articulated are not actually the positions the candidate believes.

In other words, afraid of how explosive this may be, the Rand Paul Senate campaign is giving lying a shot.

This afternoon, a spokesman for the Paul campaign told Greg Sargent, “Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to insure that private businesses don’t discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers.”

Except, of course, he doesn’t. We know Paul doesn’t support this policy because he’s told us he doesn’t support this policy. Indeed, just last night, Rachel Maddow asked the Republican candidate, “Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don’t serve black people?” Paul replied, “Yes.”

Worse, this has always been Paul’s position. This afternoon, Dave Weigel notes remarks the right-wing ophthalmologist made several years ago.

In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul’s hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that “a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin.” (Hat tip: Page One Kentucky.)

“The Daily News ignores,” wrote Paul, “as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual’s beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn’t want noisy children? Absolutely not.”

In language similar to the language he’s used talking about the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized racism while defending the right of businesses to discriminate.

“A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination,” wrote Paul, “even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities.”

So, when the campaign spokesperson argues that Rand Paul “supports” government restrictions on private enterprise regarding discrimination, that’s plainly false. That, or Paul woke up this morning with a policy position entirely at odds with everything he’s said and/or thought on the subject for years.

Indeed, this new report drives the point home nicely — Paul not only thinks the Civil Rights Act was excessive, but he doesn’t even support the Fair Housing Act, for the same reason.

Far be it from me to give the Paul campaign advice, but lying about this is the wrong way to go. Paul’s only legitimate avenue is to make the philosophical argument — he finds racism offensive, but doesn’t want government to interfere with business’ choices — and hope voters buy it.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.