In an interview with The Huffington Post, Sen. Rand Paul stoutly defended an aide who, as a radio shock jock in South Carolina, praised John Wilkes Booth, heaped scorn on Abraham Lincoln and wore a ski mask emblazoned with the stars and bars of the Confederate Battle Flag.
Paul (R-Ky.) stressed that he opposed such views, many of which have been recanted by the Senate aide, Jack Hunter, who co-wrote Paul’s first book in 2010 and who is now his social media adviser in Washington.
“I’m not a fan of secession,” Paul said. “I think the things he said about John Wilkes Booth are absolutely stupid. I think Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents. Do I think Lincoln was wrong is taking away the freedom of the press and the right of habeas corpus? Yeah.
“There were great people who were for emancipation. Lincoln came to his greatness. One Republican congressman described it as ‘on borrowed plumage.’ I love the description, because there were some great fighters [for emancipation] and Lincoln had to be pushed. But I’m not an enemy of Lincoln, like some who think he was an awful person.”
Paul said that Hunter had never acted in a discriminatory way, and that his earlier work in South Carolina was a form of youthful political showmanship.
“People are calling him a white supremacist,” Paul told me in his Senate office. “If I thought he was a white supremacist, he would be fired immediately. If I thought he would treat anybody on the color of their skin different than others, I’d fire him immediately.
“All I can say is, we have a zero tolerance policy for anybody who displays discriminatory behavior or belief in discriminating against people based on the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation, anything like that,” Paul told me. “We won’t tolerate any of that, and I’ve seen no evidence of that.
The Hill summarized the controversy:
Paul’s comments follow a report from the conservative Washington Free Beacon about Hunter, who joined Paul’s office as social media director in 2012. Hunter worked with Paul on the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.
In his 20s, Hunter was the chairman of the League of the South, a group that “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern State from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic,” according to the Free Beacon report.
Anti-Defamation League Investigative Research Director Mark Pitcavage called the group “implicitly racist.”
During his radio career, Hunter also discussed “racial pride” and expressed his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, according to the Free Beacon. In 2004, Hunter wrote that the Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s heart was “in the right place.”
During his time as a radio host, Hunter would also make public appearances wearing a mask with the Confederate flag printed on it. Paul brushed off the mask when asked about it.
White supremacists have always been a major part of Ron Paul’s support. Rand Paul has attempted to position himself as a more mainstream Republican while still capitalizing on his father’s supporters. Failing to distance himself from someone such as Hunter will make it more difficult for Paul to maintain mainstream support beyond the south.