U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican widely seen as a 2016 presidential hopeful, said Monday he and his staff were wrong to copy another source verbatim for a book he wrote, and vowed to do better in the future. But he also defended his decision to push back against critics on the issue.

“I’m not going to probably get Bibliographer-in-Chief, I will say that. I’m probably not going to win any awards for footnoting, but we are going to do better,” he said. “I am human. I made mistakes. We made errors, but what I think is unfair is to call me dishonest. I’m not dishonest.”

Paul said he never purposely misled anyone or tried to take anyone’s information and pass it off as his own.

He also said he was being criticized for not clearing a journalistic bar that other media outlets also do not clear. He cited a report from a recent Liberty University speech that used “abortion” in the headline when he didn’t mention the word in his speech.

And he said a Kentucky newspaper reported that he went to Liberty to campaign for Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.

“That was also untrue. (Cuccinelli) got added on that day. We didn’t ask him to appear there. I had been invited to speak there for six months,” he said.

“I’m being plagued because of some lines I didn’t have footnoted properly or didn’t attribute properly,” he said, adding that there ought to be a different standard for attributing stories told in campaign speeches than for written work. “Some of the book should have been held to a higher level. There’s not much excuse for that other than we’re going to go back and footnote that for when we publish it again.”

While Paul’s recent publicity has revolved around plagiarism, it’s unclear how much of an issue that might be this time next year. That’s approximately when Paul said he expects to decide whether he will enter the 2016 presidential race.

“Whether I do or don’t, I want our ideas to win, and I want our country to grow,” he said. “I think we’ve given up too much. We’ve given up the idea of arguing whether lower taxes are better than higher taxes. ... I’m of the opinion that no one will ever knock on a door for you because you’re for revenue-neutral tax reform. Let’s be for lowering taxes.”

He did discuss New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was re-elected last week and is another Republican widely expected to run for president.

Paul said he disagreed with Christie not on whether the federal government should have helped victims of Hurricane Sandy last year, but whether that help should be approved one year at a time and come from spending reductions elsewhere in the federal budget.

“The main theme of his candidacy seems to be, ‘I got you a lot of federal money,’” Paul said of Christie. “That doesn’t seem like a conservative message. That sounds like a moderate to big-government message.”

Paul repeated his previous stance that he was unlikely to get involved in U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s primary battle next year, though the two have disagreed on military policy, National Security Administration surveillance and other topics. Graham currently has four GOP challengers with support among the party’s tea party wing.

“We’re unlikely to (get involved). We’re not going to say never,” he said. “I’m not against people having races ... but I think it’s difficult for other people to get involved. You eat lunch with people every day. It’s a difficult scenario and doesn’t make for any kind of cohesiveness as far as trying to get things done.”

Before speaking to the media Monday, Paul addressed a group of about 75 Republican faithful having lunch at the Harbour Club. He is scheduled to address Citadel cadets at 11:15 a.m. today.

Paul said he favors a 1-percent across the board sequester as well as a bill that would reward federal employees financially if their suggestions trimmed government waste.

He also said the U.S. debt has been downgraded not because of Washington gridlock and infighting but because nothing has come from recent battles.

“The (bond rating agency) S&P (Standard and Poors) wrote a report and they said, ‘You didn’t do enough to fix the impasse between what comes in and what comes out,’” he said. “This last fight we did nothing. In fact, we raised the debt ceiling with no limits through Feb. 7.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.