Rand Paul's troubling ties to racists

The Week

The libertarian senator's new media guy has a pro-Confederate past filled with controversial comments

A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is a former member of a pro-secessionist group who used to wear a luchador mask emblazoned with a Confederate flag under the moniker, "Southern Avenger."

Jack Hunter, Paul's director of new media, who also co-wrote Paul's 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington, is a former radio shock jock and former member of a neo-Confederate organization, according to a report in the Washington Free Beacon. Hunter is the second Paul staffer to have his troublesome views on racial issues revealed.

In the decade before he joined Paul's campaign, Hunter provided conservative commentary on the radio and on his website under the guise of his pseudonymous Southern character. In a 2004 article posted to his site and uncovered by the Free Beacon, titled "John Wilkes Booth Was Right," Hunter argued that "Wilkes Booth's heart was in the right place," and that Lincoln was, in fact, "one of the worst figures in American history."

Here's how Hunter described the Civil War:

Imagine you entered into an agreement with a friend. Your friend then decides to gain the upper hand at your expense. For your own good, you decide to back out and go your own way. But instead of letting bygones be bygones, your friend burns your house down, rapes your sister and forces you to re-enter the agreement at gun point. This is pretty much what Lincoln did to the Southern people. [Southern Avenger]

And here he is discussing race in another piece, called "Are White People Out of Style?":

Hispanics indulge in an even more nationalistic form of racial identity by flying Mexican flags, listening to a foreign music that both black and white Americans have never even heard of, and turning everywhere they settle into northern outposts of their Mexican homeland.

And then there are white people. Not only are whites not afforded the same right to celebrate their own cultural identity – but anything that is considered "too white" is immediately suspect. Nobody talks about rap music being "too black." No one would dare suggest that the agricultural work force is "too Hispanic." But let something like NASCAR, country music or the Republican party become patronized mainly by white Americans, and you can bet your ass someone is going to scream racism. [Southern Avenger]

Prior to his days as the Southern Avenger, Hunter was a prominent member of the League of the South, a pro-Confederate, pro-secession group. The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the League of the South as a hate group, and said it has become more "explicitly racist" throughout the years.

Along with its academics, the league included racist hard-liners from the start. One founding member who still sat on the board of directors in 2007 is Jack Kershaw, a lifelong segregationist who once was an official in the anti-integration White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s. Kershaw has never hidden his racist views. "Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery," Kershaw told a reporter in 1998. "Where in the world are the Negroes better off today than in America?" [Southern Poverty Law Center]

Hunter told the Free Beacon that the group was not racist when he was a member, adding, "I was a young person, it was a fairly radical group — the same way a person on the left might be attracted in college to some left-wing radical groups."

During Paul's 2010 Senate bid, he forced out his then-spokesman, Christopher Hightower, after a reporter discovered a note posted to Hightower's MySpace page on Martin Luther King Day that read "HAPPY N****R DAY!!!" alongside an image of a lynching.

Those controversies echo the same criticisms that dogged Paul's father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), during his presidential campaigns. In each of those bids, old newsletters bearing Paul's name and containing overtly racist messages surfaced. The elder Paul said he didn't write the newsletters.

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Jack Hunter posted this photo of him and former Rep. Ron Paul on his Facebook page. (Facebook.com/SouthernAvenger)

Both Pauls have publicly condemned racism, and Rand has urged his fellow Republicans in recent months to embrace minority voters. Yet that recurring pattern of racism in their political partners is not mere coincidence alone, many argue, but rather a reflection of some shared political ideals.

"The deep connection between the Pauls and the neo-Confederate movement doesn't discredit their ideas, but it's also not just an indiscretion," New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait wrote. "It's a reflection of the fact that white supremacy is a much more important historical constituency for anti-government ideas than libertarians like to admit."

Indeed, during his 2010 Senate campaign, Rand suggested he would have voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not for any race-based reason, but because he thought it was an infringement on the freedom of speech of private businesses.

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