Rand Paul literally flips off media after debate firestorm

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) delivered a message from his presidential campaign’s supporters to the media on Thursday: A middle finger.

In an interview with ABC Radio correspondent Aaron Katersky on Thursday, Paul said his exclusion form Thursday night’s primetime debate had infuriated many of his supporters, who were calling into his campaign to convey their anger with the media. 

“Ninety-nine per cent of our supporters are calling in and saying, for the media, that’s where you can go,” Paul said, then throwing up his middle finger.

The senator failed to place high enough in national or early-state polls to qualify for the primetime debate, which is being hosted by the Fox Business Network. He has subsequently refused to participate in the earlier, lower-tier debate featuring other lower-polling candidates.

Paul’s campaign lobbied Fox Business to allow him on the main stage, after the results of a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll released Wednesday would have helped bump up his average over the threshold needed to qualify for the main stage. But the network refused to change its qualification rules.

The campaign lashed out at Fox Business, and “the media” more broadly, after it was announced that Paul did not qualify for the debate.

“[T]he media doesn’t care about the truth, they care about their own agenda. They want to decide the ‘tiers’ of this race and name the winners and losers. I will not stand for this,” Paul wrote in an email to supporters.

The senator said Thursday that his decision to skip the second-tier debate was strategic in order to avoid looking like a lesser candidate in the eyes of voters.

“To be artificially designated in some kind of lower or second tier sends a signal to the voter that you are not the same and don’t have a chance,” Paul said.

Paul’s campaign does appear to be benefiting from greater media exposure gained by skipping the debate.

As CNN’s Dylan Byers reported Thursday, Paul’s appearance on numerous television shows in New York resulted in much higher ratings than Paul would have likely garnered if he appeared in the undercard debate.

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