Politics
2:30 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Kentucky Democrats Broil Mitch McConnell Over Rand Paul's 'Southern Avenger' Aide

Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul at a Kentucky Tea Party rally
Credit Kenny Colston / Kentucky Public Radio

The chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party is calling on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to condemn an aide in Senator Rand Paul's office who was once a member a neo-Confederate group.

In a story the Washington Free Beacon reported Paul's social media director Jack Hunter, 39, belonged to a group that advocates southern secession.

It also found that up until Hunter was hired by Paul last year, he worked as a radio shock jock dubbed the "Southern Avenger" who praised Abraham Lincoln's assassination and said a non-white majority in the country would "simply cease to be America."

The aide's comments have put Paul's judgment for hiring him—and his potential 2016 presidential candidacy—under harsh scrutiny form critics. But state Democrats took the story as a chance to take quick swipe at Paul and link McConnell to his junior Kentucky colleague.

"The shameful history of Senator Rand Paul's senior staffer is embarrassing and I call on Senator Paul to condemn him immediately," says KDP Chairman Dan Logsdon. "Unfortunately, we're seeing more and more of this bizarre extremism, not just from Senator Paul, but also from Senator Mitch McConnell, as he caters to the radical fringe of his party."

The McConnell campaign says racism has no place in politics, but stopped short of denouncing Hunter and instead pivoted to criticize Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.

"If Dan Logsdon would look up from the disaster that is Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign long enough to notice, he would see that Rand Paul has done more to reach out to African American and Hispanic communities in the past six months than Logsdon has done his entire career," says McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton. "We would hope everyone agrees that racism has no place in politics, which is why it was particularly disappointing that Secretary Grimes failed to condemn a liberal Super PAC’s racist tweets targeting Senator McConnell's wife."

It's no secret McConnell has tried to forge an alliance with Paul in order to blunt any Tea Party challenge in a GOP Primary. By hiring Benton, who worked with Hunter as a campaign manger for Rand Paul in 2010 and Ron Paul in 2012, McConnell is more entangled in this controversy than he would be otherwise.

Meanwhile, Hunter's supporters allege this story is being pushed by Rand Paul's neo-conservative critics to discredit a White House bid. Still, most acknowledge this controversy hurts Paul's public attempts at courting black and Hispanic voters.

In a blog posting on Tuesday, Hunter, who remains on Paul's staff, defended himself reiterated those are no longer his current beliefs although his web address remains: SouthernAveger.com

From Southern Avenger:

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. I’ve been guilty of both, and am embarrassed by some of the comments I made precisely because they do not represent me today. I was embarrassed by some of them even then.

I am also no longer a guy who judges beer drinking contests in a wrestling mask. Things change. We all hopefully grow up.

I abhor racism and have always treated everyone I’ve met with dignity and respect as individuals. This was true in the past and it is true now. The controversial comments are also but a fraction of my decade of writing and talking about conservative, Tea Party and libertarian causes.

I have also written columns over the years promoting African-American history and politics, and many other writings that tell a far different story than what the headlines portray today. Not surprisingly, the reporter chose not to balance her piece by citing any of those columns.

National pundits have said Paul should fire or renounce Hunter's comments if he wants to remain a credible GOP contender for the presidency. At least once state Democrat agrees the aide should remain in Paul's office.

"I think the senator ought to do what he wants to do. Senator Paul ought to keep these people wrapped around him so people can get a clearer view of who he is," says Louisville Democrat Gerald Neal, who is Kentucky's only African-American state Senator. "I want Rand Paul to run for president. I think that will reveal more to us."

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