Tea Party and the Right

Rand Paul Continues to Associate with Old Neoconfederate Allies as He Prepares a Presidential Run

Most presidential candidates don’t have race-baiting ghostwriters.

Republican Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul addressing the Young Americans for Liberty conference on Wednesday evening.
Photo Credit: YALiberty.org

Rand Paul, the U.S. Senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, keeps crossing paths with his notorious political soul mate, Jack Hunter, who ghost-wrote Paul’s 2011 book but resigned from his Senate staff last July after his past as a neo-Confederate blogger who praised Abraham Lincoln’s killer—and called for African-American filmmaker Spike Lee to be whipped—caught up with him.

On Wednesday night, Paul gave the keynote address to the Young Americans For Liberty 2014 convention in Washington.  The Libertarian group, which once hired Hunter—who had blogged as “The Southern Avenger” and was known for wearing a Confederate flag facemask—is having him Hunter for a Friday morning talk, entitled, “You Can’t Be A Conservative Without Being A Libertarian.”

As Kentucky civil rights pioneer Georgia David Powers told AlterNet this week, Paul has a long history of voting against the interests of African-Americans, despite recent efforts to recast himself as a racial justice crusader. “A leopard does not change its spots,” Powers said, adding that Paul has surrounded himself with white supremacists for years.

That brings us back to Hunter, who wasn’t just another southerner venting that the wrong side won the Civil War. Thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, you can read what he wrote in 2005 for the Charleston City Paper, where he relished the persona that he created of a Confederate-flag-masked pundit seeking to offend Yankee sensibilities.

In the piece where Hunter said that he’d be celebrating the birthday of Lincoln assassin, John Wilkes Booth, he also ridiculed the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa.

“Now, the Southern Avenger isn’t one to begrudge others from celebrating whatever they want. I know I raise a personal toast every May 10 to celebrate John Wilkes Booth's birthday,” Hunter wrote, before he turned on Kwanzaa’s founder. “Now you tell me. How did this race-obsessed, misogynistic ex-con, get the mainstream American media to take a holiday he invented seriously?”

You might think that a politician with presidential ambitions would distance himself from people whose pasts contained beyond-stupid youthful indiscretions. But not so, with Paul, wrote James Kirchik, for The Daily Beast, where he last July detailed more of Hunter’s neo-Confederate ravings. He compared the anti-imperialism of the Old South to the Islamic insurgents fighting Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mediaite.com, another right-wing website, noted that fellow conservatives had “outed” Hunter.

Before Hunter went to work for Paul’s senatorial staff, the Young Americans for Liberty hired him as national outreach director. Here’s what their press release said, teeming with enthusiasm for their new like-minded colleague:

“YAL is very pleased to announce the addition of Jack Hunter, also known as the Southern Avenger, to our national staff.  He is joining YAL in the position of Director of Outreach, and will be responsible for building and maintaining good relationships with our allies in the liberty movement.

“Jack has previously been involved in YAL as a writer and contributing editor of Young American Revolution and a participant and host at many of YAL's events, particularly at the annual CPAC conference.

“Outside of YAL he is widely published, perhaps most notably as a coauthor of Senator Rand Paul's book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington.  A prominent figure in the liberty movement, Jack's most recent writings and videos may be viewed at his website.

“I know I can speak for all of the YAL staff when I say we are thrilled to have Jack on board, and look forward to working with him for years to come!”

Why does this matter? Because Paul is a leading 2016 Republican presidential candidate, who, among other things, is going around the country and giving speeches to civil rights organizations about reforming draconian federal drug laws that imprison minorities. As Kentucky’s former state Senator Georgia Powers said, Paul is a “great pretender” who cannot be trusted. And trust is key here, because as a politician like Paul moves into higher orbits, the circle of people who they know and trust shrinks.

Now, Hunter, according to a Mediaite.com article last fall, has been seeking to revive his reputation and apologize for his racist rants—saying it was an insensitive shtick for an arrogant twenty-something year old. “Hunter wrote that while Paul knew of his persona as the Southern Avenger, the Senator did not know of his previous statements, including toasting to John Wilkes Booth, calling for Spike Lee to be whipped, and more.”

Mediaite is referring to a November 2013 piece in Politico.com, entitled, “Confessions of a Right Wing Shock Jock: I’m not a Racist; I Just Played One on the Radio.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Sen. Paul had known that I used to wear a Confederate wrestling mask as part of an old radio shtick, and I still sometimes used the Southern Avenger moniker—it was my Twitter handle and appeared on my Facebook page. But he hadn’t known about the many stupid and offensive things I’d said…

“It was painful to revisit because it sounds awful to me today, so I could only imagine what it sounded like to African-Americans in 2000. I recall making equally insensitive comments about illegal immigrants and Muslims. Whenever I put on that wrestling mask, I took on a persona that was intentionally outrageous and provocative. I said many terrible things. I disavow them.

“But let’s be honest: My commentary wasn’t all that different from what more mainstream conservatives were saying—at the time and still today…Most conservatives are not, and never were, racists. But many have displayed a disregard for minorities for a very long time and in a plethora of ways. I certainly did.”

This week, both Paul and Hunter are speaking on at the Young Americans For Liberty 2014 convention. The group’s mission, taken from its website, is, “to identify, educate, train, and mobilize youth activists committed to ‘winning on principle.’ Our goal is to cast the leaders of tomorrow and reclaim the policies, candidates, and direction of our government.”

Well, these young leaders of tomorrow have role models with quite a past. And that includes Paul, who, when speaking at the YAL conference on Wednesday complained that he was having a great day until he went on MSNBC that afternoon and had to answer questions from “partisan cranks and hacks” who he said were distorting his record of opposing a key part of the federal Civil Rights Act.

“To come on MSNBC and have a philosophical discussion, the liberals will come out of the woodwork and they will go crazy and say you’re against the Civil Rights Act and that you’re some racist,” Paul told The Cycle co-host Ari Melber.

Too bad MSNBC did not follow up by asking Paul about his longtime associate Jack Hunter.

 

 

 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).