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In an interview today with Chris Matthews, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway defended a recent campaign ad claiming that his Republican opposition, Dr. Rand Paul, had mocked Christianity in his college years. Conway said that the purpose of the ad was to question Paul’s actions, not his faith.

In an interview today with Chris Matthews, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway defended a recent campaign ad claiming that his Republican opposition, Dr. Rand Paul, had mocked Christianity in his college years. Conway said that the purpose of the ad was to question Paul’s actions, not his faith.

Video of the interview is available at:

A complete transcript of the interview is below. If used, please credit MSNBC.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: From the Senate battleground in Kentucky, let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. Leading off tonight: The Senate race here between Republican Rand Paul, Dr. Rand Paul, and Democrat Jack Conway gets nasty. Paul refused to shake Conway's hand after last night's debate, after Conway questioned Paul's religious faith in a new ad. But doesn't the U.S.

Constitution prohibit a religious test for the Senate? We've got Democrat Jack Conway right here joining us in a minute.

Plus, the state of play. With two weeks of campaigning to go, we'll find out where things stand in the battle for control of the House the U.S. Senate. And two Republican candidates, two gaffes that could determine control of the Senate. Up in Alaska, Joe Miller's private security guards handcuffed a reporter at a campaign event. In Colorado, Ken Buck compared a predilection to homosexuality to that toward alcoholism. How will such behavior and such talk affect these races?

All that's ahead.

But first, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate here in Kentucky, Jack Conway.


MATTHEWS: We invited Dr. Paul to appear today, and hopes that he will take us up on that offer in the very near future.

Let's take a look at last night's debate. It was a heated exchange between you, Jack Conway, and your opponent, Rand Paul. Let's listen.


JACK CONWAY (D-KY), SENATE CANDIDATE: Values matter, and I think Rand Paul has two questions to answer here tonight. Why did he freely join a group known for mocking or making fun of people of faith? And secondly, when is it ever a good idea, a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol, your god that you call Aqua Buddha (ph)?

RAND PAUL (R-KY), SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, Jack, you know how we tell you're lying? It's when your lips are moving, OK?


PAUL: You're accusing me of crimes. You just -- do you know nothing about the process? You're going to stand over there and accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago from some anonymous source? How ridiculous are you? You embarrass this race! You're going to accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago? You really have no shame, have you. Run a race as a man! Stand up and be a man instead of just calling me names!


MATTHEWS: Well, Jack Conway, I guess the question is, what was the purpose of the ad? We'll show it in a minute, but what's the purpose of an ad that talks about someone's behavior 30 years -- in what may have been a hazing incident. We don't know. It's very murky. And it raises questions about his religious faith because in the ad, you ask, Why does he want to take away tax deductions for religion? Is he, in fact, mocking Christianity in that organization he joined 30 years ago? Is he saying the Bible's a hoax? Do you believe he's a man of faith, your opponent?

CONWAY: I'm not questioning his faith.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe he's a man of faith?

CONWAY: I'm not questioning his faith...

MATTHEWS: No, do you believe he's a man of faith?

CONWAY: I'm not questioning his faith. I'm not questioning...

MATTHEWS: OK, well...

CONWAY: I'm questioning his actions.


CONWAY: I'm questioning his actions.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's let everybody watch the ad and see what they think.


MATTHEWS: Here's the ad you approved. It's running against Rand Paul. I think it questions his faith. Let's watch. Everybody decide watching at home. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the holy Bible a hoax, that was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ? Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was Aqua Buddha?

Why does Rand Paul now want to end all federal faith-based initiatives and even end the deduction for religious charities? Why are there so many questions about Rand Paul?


MATTHEWS: What's the connection between what he did in college 30 years ago and his position on tax deductions for religious organizations? What's the connection?

CONWAY: There's...

MATTHEWS: You're drawing the connection here.

CONWAY: There's a consistent strain with Rand Paul going all the way back from his writings in college to his positions today. There was an article in...

MATTHEWS: What's that strand?

CONWAY: Well, let me explain it to you. There was an article in "The Washington Post" last week that talked about Rand Paul saying that women don't need equal rights, that we don't need protections for non-discrimination, that we don't need consumer protection actions. He wrote to his college newspaper, When are two people ever equal?

And you can run that right through in a common thread to his positions today in this race on questioning fundamental provisions of the Civil Rights Act.+ questioning the Americans With Disabilities Act, not standing up for worker safety protections. There's a common thread between his world view in college and where he is today. And I am not questioning his faith, Chris. I'm questioning his actions. I mean, the president of...

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go through the language. You approved the ad, right?


MATTHEWS: It mocks Christianity, mocks Christ, says the Bible is a hoax. Did you prove that language?

CONWAY: It's on the ad. It says, "I'm Jack Conway, and I approved this"...

MATTHEWS: Well, doesn't that question his faith?

CONWAY: It questions his actions. It questions his actions, Chris, because the president of Baylor University -- let's (INAUDIBLE) facts.

The president of Baylor University banned this group a couple of years before Rand Paul got to campus.


CONWAY: He banned them because they were, quote, unquote, "making fun of Christianity and Christ."

MATTHEWS: Do you think that's wrong?

CONWAY: Yes, I think that's wrong.

MATTHEWS: Is it wrong for a candidate not to believe in Christianity?

CONWAY: That's not wrong. But to mock people of faith, that's wrong.


MATTHEWS: ... college student to be skeptical about religion?

CONWAY: No, it's not, but it's wrong to mock people of faith.

MATTHEWS: Is it wrong to speak out about your skepticism towards organized religions while you're in college?

CONWAY: It's not wrong, but it's wrong to mock people of faith.

And when is it right, Chris -- when is it ever right to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before...

MATTHEWS: What do you make...

CONWAY: ... a false idol that you call...


MATTHEWS: What do you make of her statement more recently, where she says, They whole thing was blown out of proportion. They didn't force me. They didn't make me. They were creating a drama. I went along because they were friends. There was a sort of a cooperation of the whole thing. I felt like I was being hazed. In other words, it was one of these weird college hazing things. Didn't you do anything in college you think is a little strange? Did you ever -- were you always a straight arrow?

CONWAY: I don't know that...

MATTHEWS: I'm serious.

CONWAY: I don't know that I was always a straight arrow. But the woman went on to say in her follow-up piece, Chris, said that it was sadistic and that she never spoke to Rand Paul again.


CONWAY: And you know, Rand Paul's calling on me for an apology. I think he owes an apology and an explanation to the women of Kentucky. I mean...


MATTHEWS: Well, I'm just quoting her. I don't know this woman. Do you know her?

CONWAY: No, I don't know her.

MATTHEWS: Have you ever met her?

CONWAY: I have not met her.

MATTHEWS: Have you ever talked to her?

CONWAY: I have not talked to her.

MATTHEWS: Have you ever heard her on the record, legally on the record?


MATTHEWS: Speaking on the record under oath about what happened?

CONWAY: I have not heard her under oath.

MATTHEWS: OK, so it's all sort of hearsay by an unrecognized source. It is tricky. You're building major campaign push at the end on a claim made by somebody who won't come out of the dark, who won't say what actually happened in a kind of a public way that could be checked. In other words, whatever she says is the truth, by your standards. In other words, you believe what she said.

CONWAY: Listen...

MATTHEWS: No, seriously. You're an attorney. You're Attorney general. You believe this woman's claim per se, just because she made it.


MATTHEWS: Suppose she's not telling the truth.

CONWAY: I believe this woman's claim...


CONWAY: ... and six -- and six reputable news organizations have printed this.



CONWAY: The president of Baylor University...

MATTHEWS: ... what she said.

CONWAY: ... has gone on record about...

MATTHEWS: Look, I know the -- the story here.


MATTHEWS: But you're basically trusting a woman's word against Dr.




CONWAY: Because in any number of instances, I don't think he's told the truth.

MATTHEWS: So you just...


MATTHEWS: Prima facie, anyone who makes a 30-year-old charge against your opponent, you will exploit that for a TV ad. That's what you've done here. You've exploited the un-on-the-record comment of a woman who won't come forward, as the basis for a -- you've said he mocked Christianity and Christ. He says the Bible -- should I ask you questions about the Bible, what you believe? Should I start asking you questions whether you believe in the seven days of creation, if you believe in angels? Should I start asking politicians those questions?

Personally, I refuse.

CONWAY: I understand.

MATTHEWS: I don't think I have a right to know what you believe about Christianity or what you believe deep down.

CONWAY: Right, but...

MATTHEWS: You're getting into the question, seems to me, Jack -- you're asking what this man believes because of this ad. I could play this -- well, let me -- here's Dr. Rand's response. Then I want you to react to that. Here's what he says about the ad you ran. A lot of Democrats don't like this ad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now Jack Conway is attacking Rand Paul's faith. Rand Paul keeps Christ in his heart and in the life he shares with his wife and three boys. Don't be fooled by Conway's desperate attack. It's shameless, disgraceful, gutter politics at its worse.

What kind of shameful politician would sink this low, to bear false witness against another man just to win an election? This one would, Jack Conway.


MATTHEWS: Well, this is my last question. What do you think of that?

CONWAY: I think that anyone who would criticize us coming forward and questioning Dr. Paul on this, they haven't looked at the facts. And these are facts.

MATTHEWS: You want more facts to come out. You'd like this woman to come forward, wouldn't you.

CONWAY: I would like her to come forward, but you know, there's an article in "The Washington Post" that just went up that says -- where the reporter said, Listen, Rand Paul said this is made up. And the reporters says, It's not made up.


MATTHEWS: ... question of context. Look, let's move on, OK? Let's talk about issues that really matter to everybody watching this program. The Bush tax cut -- you basically believe it should be continued for everyone.

CONWAY: I think it should be continued for everyone. I don't think we need to be raising taxes during a time of recession.

MATTHEWS: OK. It's going to -- people -- these estimates are pretty well accepted, about $4 trillion, the cost of -- what -- how do we make that up in terms of the national debt, by spending cuts or other tax increases? Or do we just add $4 trillion to the national debt?

CONWAY: I don't think we add to it. I just don't think right now is the time to be raising...

MATTHEWS: No, no. I mean, if we cut the tax -- if we keep the tax cuts for another 10 years, the estimate is it would cost the federal treasury an additional $4 trillion on top of the $13 trillion debt we have now. How do you deal with that fact?

CONWAY: You deal with it by allowing Medicare to engage in bulk purchasing, which is about $200 billion in savings. You allow -- you allow Medicare fraud units to take about $100 billion in savings out of the system. You close down the offshore tax loopholes and those provisions that are about $130 billion. We go back to a pay-as-you-go system in Congress. And we need a bipartisan debt commission that Mitch McConnell once supporter and that now he's...

MATTHEWS: Do you support the president's debt commission?

CONWAY: Yes, absolutely. But I would prefer to see it in the United States Congress to come back...

MATTHEWS: You're -- you will be supportive of it when it comes out with its report in December?

CONWAY: Well, I want to see it. I'm not going to be supportive of anything until I've had a chance to read it.

MATTHEWS: But the idea of a bipartisan debt commission -- you like the idea.

CONWAY: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's go to this question of "Don't ask, don't tell." The president's in a tough situation as chief executive. You're an attorney (ph) and you know it's a tough situation. He has to defend the statute, even though he didn't like it.

CONWAY: Right.

MATTHEWS: What would you do if you were president or you were senator right now in terms of "Don't ask" -- the courts -- it's working its way toward the Supreme Court, probably. In the meantime, the Senate has to look at it. What would you do?

CONWAY: I would follow Admiral Mullen's recommendation. He said he's going to put us on an 11-month course toward ending the policy. He says it's wrong to ask people to lie about who they are...

MATTHEWS: Are you with him?

CONWAY: ... in order to -- I'm with him.

MATTHEWS: You want to get rid of it.

CONWAY: I want to get rid of it.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you...

CONWAY: And I abhor discrimination.

MATTHEWS: What -- there's something strange, a Republican -- I'm now feeding you an easy one after being tough with you...


MATTHEWS: ... because I am going to be tough about this religious...

CONWAY: That's fine.

MATTHEWS: ... test issue. The candidate for the Senate running in Colorado has basically come out and said that people are born with -- and this is tricky because we really don't, I think, know these answers. You're born with a predilection towards being guy, like you're born with a predilection toward being an alcoholic. Therefore, you can act on it, like you can choose not to drink, I guess he's saying -- just to extrapolate a bit. You can choose not to be gay in your behavior.

Do you buy that?

CONWAY: No, I don't. I don't. I think we're all -- I don't. I don't buy that.

MATTHEWS: So you're with nature, not nurture.

CONWAY: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. And I -- and I abhor discrimination. And that's one of the reasons I find it so troubling that Rand Paul questioned fundamental provisions of the Civil Rights Act. And when I was last on your show, we talked about the fact that he took money from white separatists and wouldn't give it back when I called on him to return it. He's questioned the Americans With Disabilities Act.


CONWAY: I'm leaving (ph) here tonight with Max Cleland to talk about the fact that we have 12,000 newly disabled vets in the commonwealth of Kentucky that...

MATTHEWS: Well, you're lucky to have him in the state. Let me ask you about Mitch McConnell, Mr. Republican in this state. Mitch McConnell has taken a position that he doesn't want to give subpoena power to the commission looking into the BP disaster. Why wouldn't he want to give it subpoena power?

CONWAY: He wouldn't want to give it subpoena power because he didn't want -- he didn't want it to be forced to find out the facts.

And my understanding is that that commission is supposed to report back sometime in January, and they need subpoena power and they need it soon to get to the facts and make recommendations for the future.

MATTHEWS: OK, let's just kill this thing I started with tonight.

You're not questioning Dr. Rand Paul's religious faith, the fact that he attends with his family a Presbyterian church. His wife's a deacon.

You don't question his religious faith.

CONWAY: No, I don't.

MATTHEWS: Not at all?

CONWAY: I just question his actions. He...

MATTHEWS: Current actions or actions 30 years ago?

CONWAY: I question his -- well, I've questioned a lot of his actions...

MATTHEWS: What about...

CONWAY: ... in the campaign.

MATTHEWS: ... his actions with regard to his religious faith currently?

CONWAY: I don't question that at all. I question his actions.

He's got...

MATTHEWS: Thirty years ago?

CONWAY: Yes, well, 25 years ago, whenever he was at Baylor. Why is it ever a good idea to voluntarily join a group that's known for mocking people of faith? And it's not about the faith or what you believe, it's about mocking people of other faiths.


CONWAY: And that's what this was known for.

MATTHEWS: So his -- you felt that he was anti-religious at that time and should pay for it now.

CONWAY: I think we...

MATTHEWS: I mean, you are saying that.

CONWAY: I think we have to be held accountable for our actions.

MATTHEWS: Is he qualified to be United States senator or disqualified because of that behavior 25, 30 years ago?

CONWAY: I think...

MATTHEWS: Is he disqualified because of his behavior in college?

CONWAY: I think he has to answer why he mocked people of faith when he was in college. I think he has to answer that question. And I think the women of Kentucky want to have an answer...

MATTHEWS: Are there any possibly good answers, like he was a free spirit and he was questioning...

CONWAY: Why won't he answer the question?

MATTHEWS: Well, let's see. We're having on, whenever he comes on.



MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. It's great to have you on. Jack Conway -- I thought -- I got you mixed up with your opponent.