- Democrat Charles Booker released a striking ad featuring him wearing a noose around his neck.
- Booker, who is Black, used the image to attack his opponent Senate, GOP Sen. Rand Paul.
- Paul, seeking re-election this year, opposed to bill making lynching a federal hate crime.
Democratic Senate candidate Charles Booker released an ad on Wednesday in which he wears a noose around his neck while criticizing his opponent — Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky—for a series of controversial statements and positions related to race and civil rights.
Booker recently became the first Black Kentuckian to win the Democratic nomination for US Senate. In 2020, he lost the nomination to Amy McGrath in a bid to take on then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He’s seeking to unseat Paul this year, though a January 2022 poll found the incumbent Republican led Booker by 16 points.
“The pain of our past persists to this day,” Booker intones over an image of a noose hanging outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. “In Kentucky, like many states throughout the South, lynching was a tool of terror. It was used to kill hopes for freedom.”
The Kentucky Democrat then appears with a noose around his neck. “It was used to kill my ancestors,” he says.
Booker goes on to note Paul’s comments comparing a right to healthcare to slavery, his comments criticizing the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the fact that he blocked an anti-lynching law from being passed in 2020.
“The choice couldn’t be clearer,” says Booker as he grips the noose. “Do we move forward together, or do we let politicians like Rand Paul forever hold us back and drive us apart?”
Paul was the lone senator to block the speedy passage of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act in 2020 making lynching a federal hate crime. He argued at the time that lynching prosecutions should be limited to “crimes resulting in substantial risk of death and extreme physical pain.”
But Paul went on to co-sponsor an amended version of the bill this year, which passed both chambers and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. In a March op-ed for the Louisville Courier-Journal, Paul explained why he sought an amendment to the original bill.
Reached by Insider for comment, Paul’s deputy campaign manager Jake Cox pointed to the op-ed. “Dr. Paul worked diligently to strengthen the language of this legislation and is a cosponsor of the bill that now ensures that federal law will define lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is,” he said. “Any attempt to state otherwise is a desperate misrepresentation of the facts.”
But the Kentucky Republican, a self-styled libertarian and the son of former Texas congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul, did compare the right to healthcare to slavery during a Senate hearing in 2011.
“With regard to the idea whether or not you have a right to health care you have to realize what that implies,” he said at the time. “I am a physician. You have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery.”
As for the Civil Rights Act, Paul has denied being opposed to the landmark 1964 legislation. “I’ve never been against the Civil Rights Act, ever,” he told an audience at Howard University in 2013.
However, he did express reservations with the bill’s ramifications for private property rights, telling the Louisville Courier Journal in 2010 that “in a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior.”
“I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anyone from your restaurant,” he also said. “But, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.”