Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul defended his aide Jack Hunter for his neo-Confederate writings last week, dismissing them as youthful indiscretions that were part of his shock-jock persona. ("It was a shock radio job. He was doing wet T-shirt contests. But can a guy not have a youth and stuff?" Paul said.) But Hunter's former editor at the Charleston City Paper, Chris Haire, claims they weren't youthful indiscretions, but what Hunter truly believed then and what he believes now. Chris Haire says Hunter contacted him long before the Washington Free Beacon broke the story of his neo-Confederate past and asked the City Paper to delete "dozens" of his old posts. Hunter wanted to protect Paul, who's openly said he wants to run for president in 2016. Haire thinks this makes Hunter a chicken.
While I told him that I would have removed one or two posts—it’s not uncommon for writers to hastily pen a column they later regret—I found the breadth of the request to be excessive, and to be honest, quite cowardly. Doing so, I told Jack, was a repudiation of the very persona he had created as a writer and radio personality. It was a denial of the very views that had made him a local media celebrity and a rising star in the so-called liberty movement, and as such, a slap in the face to all those who had ever supported him.
In responding to the Free Beacon story, Hunter said he no longer believes the stuff he did when he belonged to the secessionist League of the South in the 1990s. But Haire says that in the late 2000s, when Hunter was writing for the City Paper he believed in the same kind of stuff: defending racial profiling and racist ex-baseball player John Rocker, blasting Abraham Lincoln as Hitler-esque as well as the House of Representatives' apology for slavery.
Haire says that while Hunter never said racial slurs or joined a lynching, "it was my opinion then and it is my opinion now that Jack is the most common kind of racist, the one that doesn’t realize that he is one." Which raises an interesting question, as The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein notes: If Hunter was such a racist, why did Haire publish him? In a way, Haire supports Hunter's own defense—that he was only saying this stuff because it sells. "The role of a radio host is different from that of a political operative. In radio, sometimes you’re encouraged to be provocative and inflammatory," Hunter said in a blog post. That apparently worked for the City Paper, too. Keep that in mind when you read about how the South has changed.
In 2016, Haire warns, more will come out about how libertarians like Rand Paul and his dad, Ron Paul, "courted the racist wing of the GOP." (The elder Paul made quite a bit of money off of racist newsletters he says he did not read what was printed under his byline.) When they issue inevitable denials, Haire says, "the racists and anti-Semites and secessionists will have a good laugh knowing that one of their own had to lie to protect himself but underneath that protective cloak of political convenience he’s still one of them." Yes, and then maybe they'll sit back and relax and read a column in the Charleston City Paper.
Update: Haire responds, saying he published Hunter to show what the South Carolina Republican Party was really like, pointing out that the lieutenant governor was photographed dressed up in a Confederate uniform with people playing slaves, plus the former head of the state GOP and the attorney general belonged to an all-white country club. Haire says:
I believe my intentions are pretty clear: This is what Republicans are in South Carolina, and at the national level they still continue to court racists and Lost Causers. Deeply entrenched racism is all but destroying the GOP at the national level while it continues to help them at the statewide level.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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