RAND PAUL ATTEMPTS TO CLARIFY…. As the controversy over his remarks on the Civil Rights Act gains steam, Republican Senate hopeful Rand Paul seems to realize that the story is getting away from him. Paul’s campaign in Kentucky issued a statement about an hour ago, intending to “set the record straight.”

Most of the 325-word statement is about what one would expect — the right-wing ophthalmologist opposes racism and discrimination; he believes the “federal government has far overreached in its power grabs”; the “liberal establishment” is out to get him, etc.

But here’s the heart of the matter:

“Even though this matter was settled when I was 2, and no serious people are seeking to revisit it except to score cheap political points, I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Let me be clear: I support the Civil Rights Act because I overwhelmingly agree with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination in the public sphere and halt the abhorrent practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws.

“As I have said in previous statements, sections of the Civil Rights Act were debated on Constitutional grounds when the legislation was passed. Those issues have been settled by federal courts in the intervening years.”

Let’s unpack this a bit. Rand Paul doesn’t want to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and I’m glad, but that’s not the point. He was asked whether he would have voted for it, and Paul suggested he would not have because of concerns about government interference with private enterprise. No one’s talking about specific votes he might cast; everyone’s talking about his extremist worldview.

Similarly, he believes these issues “have been settled by federal courts,” and they have. But that misses the point, too. The concern here is that Rand Paul, due to his strange ideology, disagrees with those court rulings. If it were up to him, the matter would have “been settled” in the other direction.

And then there’s the key quote: “I support the Civil Rights Act.” Of course, that’s not what he said yesterday, and it’s the kind of insincere “support” that would have led Paul to oppose the very legislation he now claims to endorse.

My concern here is that the media will see the words “I support the Civil Rights Act” and assume the matter has been resolved. It has not. The Republican nominee for Senate has, on more than one occasion, articulated his philosophical opposition to the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other bedrocks of American society. A misleading walk-back should make the situation worse for the candidate, not better.

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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.