The Washington Free Beacon this morning combed through the public statements and professional affiliations of Jack "Southern Avenger" Hunter, a 39-year-old aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and co-author of the libertarian-leaning Republican's 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington, and found a white-pride, Confederacy-sympathizing record not particularly compatible with Paul's serial attempts this year to broaden the GOP's appeal to non-white voters:
From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the "Southern Avenger." He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.
Prior to his radio career, while in his 20s, Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which "advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic."
Do follow those links. In an interview with the Free Beacon, Hunter stepped away from many of his previously stated views:
"I was a young person, [the League of the South] was a fairly radical group – the same way a person on the left might be attracted in college to some left-wing radical groups." […]
He said he has changed his position on Lincoln's assassination but still believes the Civil War was a mistake.
"You can be for the conclusion of a war without being for a war," Hunter said. "I don't think assassinating a president is ever right, unless it was somebody like Adolf Hitler."
He said his comments about Hispanic immigrants and culture was meant to be "a point [about] how the culture changes with migration patterns. That's true. The difference between now and then is I saw that as a serious problem then. I don't think I see that as a serious problem now."
He expressed surprise when read his remarks about race, saying, "Hearing you even read that to me, because I just don't speak like that, sort of bothers me." He said his views had changed dramatically. […]
While Hunter declined to say that he no longer supports secession, he told the Free Beacon that the issue is "sort of a dead letter" in the United States.
"There's a lot of people who write in print and radio that go out and beat their chests and try to just say the craziest things they can because that's how you make a living. For awhile that's how I made a living," said Hunter. "And it's not that you don't mean it—it's just you express it in ways that does more harm than good."
Paul's office provided a statement to the Free Beacon.
"Sen. Paul holds his staff to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception," said spokesperson Moira Bagley.
Reason has reached out to Hunter and the Paul campaign for comment. After the jump, some comments of my own.
I know and have had friendly exchanges with Jack Hunter, and I will never in my lifetime understand the kind of mindset that elevates Abraham Lincoln as "Satan" while flying the colors of a short-lived polity organized around the principle of defending human slavery. As David Beito and Charles Nuckolls wrote for Reason back while Hunter was raising his annual toast to John Wilkes Booth,
If the Confederate multiculturalists believe in liberty, as many of them assert, they will stop waving the Confederate Battle Flag, abandon the cause of a nation state that championed an unforgivable violation of inalienable rights, and embrace the rich American heritage of individualism.
Which, perhaps ironically, Hunter appears to have mostly done since collaborating with Sen. Paul. It will be interesting to discover what kind of vetting process the Paul office undertook with a man who still identifies as the "Southern Avenger," and whether this latest controversy will occasion any reflection by self-identified libertarians who have ever dabbled in "try[ing] to just say the craziest things they can" about the poisonous issue of race in America.