SALT LAKE CITY—Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) raised some third-party hackles this month when he railed against libertarians during an interview with NPR.
"Give me a break. These people are not conservatives. They're not Republicans. They're radical libertarians and I'm doggone offended by it," Hatch said during a discussion in an interview released April 12, referring to the tea party groups challenging his re-election bid this year.
The former boxer continued: "I despise these people, and I'm not the type of guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth."
Those comments quickly blew up the libertarian blogosphere, especially after the conservative website Daily Caller picked up on the interview.
But at a delegate open house here Thursday night, Yahoo News caught Hatch, who would benefit from libertarian support at Saturday's GOP convention, singing the praises of libertarian turned Republican Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas congressman running for president.
Hatch was asked Thursday to comment on the current monetary system versus the one outlined "by the Founding Fathers." And without any additional prompting, Hatch issued his opinion of Paul. "I think that Ron Paul has some good ideas in that area, and I do think that the Federal Reserve should be audited," Hatch said. The senator then defended Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as someone "sincere," "dedicated" and "smart," and who makes himself available to Hatch, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
"Ron Paul raises a lot of issues," said Hatch. "This is one area where he's, I think, for the most part right."
"I happen to like him," he continued. "I like his son Rand very much. He's been a very good addition to the Senate. He's low-key, soft-spoken, very dedicated to what he believes. And I respect people who are honest and dedicated to what they believe."
In an interview with Yahoo News prior to the delegate meeting, Hatch defended tea partiers as "mostly good people" and "good, honest conservatives who are really concerned about what's happening" to our country's economy.
Hatch, a 36-year Senate veteran, faces nine Republican challengers Saturday at the state GOP convention with former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist and state Rep. Chris Herrod emerging as his top opponents.
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