The Tea Party supported, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul of Kentucky has come under fire for comments he recently made about segregation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

During the week of May 17, Paul questioned the federal government’s right to desegregate private businesses under the act decades ago. This had been a part of his campaign platform promoting greater restrictions on the federal government’s reach. He nevertheless later said he would have voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act.

“I’m opposed to any form of governmental racism or discrimination or segregation,” he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. But he said the question of imposing standards on private businesses was “still a valid discussion.”

Paul won the Republican nomination for the Senate seat in a primary election on May 18.

Though Paul later released a statement in support of the Civil Rights Act, many have already begun to distance themselves from him.

“I think his philosophy is misplaced in these times,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told Fox News Sunday. “I don’t think it’s where the country is right now. The country litigated the issue of separate but equal, the country litigated the rights of minority people in this country to access the enterprise, free enterprise system, and accommodation and all of that.”

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn (D) agreed with Steele, telling MSNBC, “I do believe he is not good for this country going forward.”

Paul also criticized President Obama’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,’” Paul said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”

The comments represented the first time a political figure had publicly defended BP’s role in the oil spill, a stance that Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine vehemently disagreed with.

“Rand Paul is wrong,” Kaine told ABC News. “It isn’t un-American to hold somebody accountable for a massive environmental disaster.”

Paul will face Democratic nominee Kentucky attorney general Jack Conway in November’s general election.