"Old News"? "Rehashed for Over a Decade"?

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In Ron Paul's statement responding to The New Republic's story about his old newsletters, he said the following:

The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts. […]

This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. […]

When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.

Has Paul really disassociated himself from, and "taken moral responsibility" for, these "Ron Paul" newsletters "for over a decade"? If he has, that history has not been recorded by the Nexis database, as best as I can reckon.

The first indication I could find of Paul either expressing remorse about the statements or claiming that he did not author them came in an October 2001 Texas Monthly article -- less than eight years ago. Here is the relevant excerpt, which references a Ron Paul newsletter that referred to then-Rep. Barbara Jordan as "Barbara Morondon," and called her the "archetypical half-educated victimologist" whose "race and sex protect her from criticism":

What made the statements in the publication even more puzzling was that, in four terms as a U.S. congressman and one presidential race, Paul had never uttered anything remotely like this.

When I ask him why, he pauses for a moment, then says, "I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren't really written by me. It wasn't my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady." Paul says that item ended up there because "we wanted to do something on affirmative action, and it ended up in the newsletter and became personalized. I never personalize anything."

His reasons for keeping this a secret are harder to understand: "They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them … I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn't come from me directly, but they [campaign aides] said that's too confusing. 'It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.'" It is a measure of his stubbornness, determination, and ultimately his contrarian nature that, until this surprising volte-face in our interview, he had never shared this secret. It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time.

So what exactly did Paul and his campaign say about these and more egregious statements during his contentious 1996 campaign for Congress, when Democrat Lefty Morris made the newsletters a constant issue? Besides complaining that the quotes were taken "out of context" and proof of his opponent's "race-baiting," Paul and his campaign defended and took full ownership of the comments. For a chronological Nexis tour of Paul's 1996 responses, please read on.

The first time I can find reporting on the controversy is in the May 22, 1996 Dallas Morning News:

Dr. Ron Paul, a Republican congressional candidate from Texas, wrote in his political newsletter in 1992 that 95 percent of the black men in Washington, D.C., are "semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

He also wrote that black teenagers can be "unbelievably fleet of foot." […]

Dr. Paul, who is running in Texas' 14th Congressional District, defended his writings in an interview Tuesday. He said they were being taken out of context.

"It's typical political demagoguery," he said. "If people are interested in my character … come and talk to my neighbors." […]

According to a Dallas Morning News review of documents circulating among Texas Democrats, Dr. Paul wrote in a 1992 issue of the Ron Paul Political Report:  "If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be."

Dr. Paul, who served in Congress in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said Tuesday that he has produced the newsletter since 1985 and distributes it to an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 subscribers. A phone call to the newsletter's toll-free number was answered by his campaign staff. […]

Dr. Paul denied suggestions that he was a racist and said he was not evoking stereotypes when he wrote the columns. He said they should be read and quoted in their entirety to avoid misrepresentation. […]

"If someone challenges your character and takes the interpretation of the NAACP as proof of a man's character, what kind of a world do you live in?" Dr. Paul asked.

In the interview, he did not deny he made the statement about the swiftness of black men.

"If you try to catch someone that has stolen a purse from you, there is no chance to catch them," Dr. Paul said.

He also said the comment about black men in the nation's capital was made while writing about a 1992 study produced by the National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives, a criminal justice think tank based in Virginia.

Citing statistics from the study, Dr. Paul then concluded in his column: "Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

"These aren't my figures," Dr. Paul said Tuesday. "That is the assumption you can gather from" the report.

May 23, 1996, Houston Chronicle:

Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of "current events and statistical reports of the time." […]

Paul also wrote that although "we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational.

Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers."

A campaign spokesman for Paul said statements about the fear of black males mirror pronouncements by black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has decried the spread of urban crime.

Paul continues to write the newsletter for an undisclosed number of subscribers, the spokesman said.

Writing in the same 1992 edition, Paul expressed the popular idea that government should lower the age at which accused juvenile criminals can be prosecuted as adults.

He added, "We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such."

Paul also asserted that "complex embezzling" is conducted exclusively by non-blacks.

"What else do we need to know about the political establishment than that it refuses to discuss the crimes that terrify Americans on grounds that doing so is racist? Why isn't that true of complex embezzling, which is 100 percent white and Asian?" he wrote.

May 23, 1996, Austin American-Statesman:

"Dr. Paul is being quoted out of context," [Paul spokesman Michael] Sullivan said.  "It's like picking up War and Peace and reading the fourth paragraph on Page 481 and thinking you can understand what's going on." […]

Also in 1992, Paul wrote, "Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions."

Sullivan said Paul does not consider people who disagree with him to be sensible.  And most blacks, Sullivan said, do not share Paul's views.  The issue is political philosophy, not race, Sullivan said.

"Polls show that only about 5 percent of people with dark-colored skin support the free market, a laissez faire economy, an end to welfare and to affirmative action," Sullivan said. […]

"You have to understand what he is writing.  Democrats in Texas are trying to stir things up by using half-quotes to impugn his character," Sullivan said.  "His writings are intellectual.  He assumes people will do their own research, get their own statistics, think for themselves and make informed judgments."

May 26, 1996 Washington Post:

Paul, an obstetrician from Surfside, Tex., denied he is a racist and charged Austin lawyer Charles "Lefty" Morris, his Democratic opponent, with taking his 1992 writings out of context.

"Instead of talking about the issues, our opponent has chosen to lie and try to deceive the people of the 14th District," said Paul spokesman Michael Sullivan, who added that the excerpts were written during the Los Angeles riots when "Jesse Jackson was making the same comments."

"Ron knows our society and our nation has done some horrible things to the black community, which has pushed a majority of young black men in some areas, in Washington, D.C., for example, into criminal activities," Sullivan said.

July 25, 1996, Houston Chronicle:

Democratic congressional candidate Lefty Morris on Wednesday produced a newsletter in which his Republican opponent, Ron Paul, called the late Barbara Jordan a "fraud" and an "empress without clothes." […]

Paul said he was expressing his "clear philosophical difference" with Jordan. […]

Paul, a Surfside physician and former congressman, said he was contrasting Jordan's political views with his own.

"The causes she so strongly advocated were for more and more government, more and more regulations and more and more taxes," Paul said.

"My cause has been almost exactly the opposite, and I believe her positions to have been fundamentally wrong," the Republican said. ""I've fought for less and less intrusive government, fewer regulations and lower taxes."

Paul said Morris was trying to "reduce the campaign to name-calling and race-baiting" so as to avoid more relevant issues, such as economic growth, taxes and spending, crime and welfare reform.

July 25, 1996, Dallas Morning News:

Dr. Paul, who faces Mr. Morris in the 14th District race for the U.S. House, dismissed the criticism as "name-calling and race-baiting." […]

In a written statement, Dr. Paul said, "Repeated attempts by my liberal opponent to reduce the campaign to name-calling and race-baiting is just more of the same old garbage we expect from his camp and will not deter me from continuing to address the real issues."

Dr. Paul said his opinions about Ms. Jordan, who died earlier this year, "represented our clear philosophical difference."

July 29, 1996, Roll Call:

In a statement, Paul said he had "labored to conduct a campaign based upon the issues that are vital to our nation" and charged Morris with "repeated attempts…to reduce the campaign to name calling and race-baiting."

He called Morris's request that he release all back issues of the newsletter "not only impractical, but…equivalent to asking him to provide documents for every lawsuit he has been involved in during his lengthy legal career."

Of his statements about Jordan, Paul said that "such opinions represented our clear philosophical difference. The causes she so strongly advocated were for more government, more and more regulations, and more and more taxes. My cause has been almost exactly the opposite, and I believe her positions to have been fundamentally wrong: I've fought for less and less intrusive government, fewer regulations, and lower taxes."

Aug. 13, 1996, Houston Chronicle:

He once called former President Bush a bum and he's taken aim at Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, California Gov. Pete Wilson, House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and, yes, GOP vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp.

Over the course of 1992 and 1993, the GOP nominee in the 14th Congressional District has called Kemp a "malicious jerk," and a "welfare statist" who had secretly increased the nation's public housing budget while serving as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He also charged in one newsletter that Kemp had "made a pass at a female reporter young enough to be his daughter."

Sept. 26, 1996, Austin American-Statesman:

"Fortunately, several types of accounts are tough for the IRS to investigate," Paul wrote. "For instance, it's still legal to open a bank account without revealing your Social Security number."

He also offered to help readers get a foreign passport.

"Peru recently announced that it will sell its citizenship to foreigners for $25,000," Paul wrote. "… People concerned about survival are naturally interested in a second citizenship and passport. If you're interested, drop me a note and include your telephone number, and I'll get you some interesting information." […]

Paul, a Surfside obstetrician, former member of Congress and 1988 Libertarian Party nominee for president, said Morris quotes material out of context. Paul also said his advice was appropriate at the time it was published.

Sept. 30, 1996, San Antonio Express-News:

Paul, a Surfside obstetrician, former congressman and the 1988 Libertarian presidential candidate, counterclaimed that Morris is name-calling to avoid discussing the issues like taxes and abortion. 

Repeated requests by telephone and by fax to interview Paul for this article were denied.

Paul's spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan said the candidate does not want to "rehash" old issues. […]

Paul has said he opposes racism and accused Morris of reducing the campaign to "name-calling and race-baiting." 

Oct. 11, 1996, Houston Chronicle:

Paul, who earlier this week said he still wrote the newsletter for subscribers, was unavailable for comment Thursday. But his spokesman, Michael Quinn Sullivan, accused Morris of "gutter-level politics."

Sullivan said it was "silly" to try to make a political issue of something written in an "abstract" sense. […]

In his April 15, 1992, newsletter, Paul wrote about a person who had a beef with the IRS and "fired bombs through mortars" one night at an IRS building in California. Some federal property was damaged, but no one was injured, and the defendant was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

"Unfortunately (the defendant's) war against the IRS was not nearly as successful as Harry's War," wrote Paul, who wants to abolish the federal tax-collection agency. "Harry's War" was a movie about a fictional individual's battle against the IRS.

Sullivan said Morris "would rather sling mud at Ron Paul than talk about the issues or discuss how his own campaign is being almost completely financed by two liberal special interest groups: the trial lawyers and big labor."

Oct. 11, 1996, Austin American-Statesman:

Paul's aide, Eric Rittberg, said -- as a Jew -- he was "outraged and insulted by the senseless, anti-Semitic statements Mr. Morris is making."

"Lefty is taking statements out of context," Sullivan said. "When you are not looking at things in context, you can make anyone look horrible."