A former top aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who quit after news reports publicized his career of making inflammatory statements about race and American history says he was only playing an outrageous character for shock value.
Jack Hunter, who worked as a radio shock jock nicknamed the “Southern Avenger” before joining the senator’s staff, wrote a lengthy column published Monday by Politico.
The 39-year-old Hunter admits to saying “some pretty atrocious things” while wearing a Confederate-flag wrestling mask as part of the persona, but he says he’d disavowed those statements by the time the conservative Washington Free Beacon published an article about them in July.
“They had changed. But it didn’t matter. There was no excuse for my comments,” Hunter wrote. “In fact, the Jack Hunter of 2013 would have condemned the Southern Avenger of 2003 for making them.”
Whenever he put on the wrestling mask, Hunter said, he took on an “intentionally outrageous and provocative persona” and said terrible things he came to regret.
“But let’s be honest: My commentary wasn’t all that different from what more mainstream conservatives were saying — at the time and still today,” Hunter said.
Hunter ridiculed conservative arguments, some of which he’s previously made, that border security is related to a La Raza takeover of the United States or that Obama is a “food-stamp president” who’s secretly a foreign-born Muslim consumed by anti-colonial rage.
“I believe that conservatives’ limited-government arguments are the right ones,” Hunter wrote. “So why do we ever have to go there?”
Hunter said he was brought up conservative in racially divided Charleston, S.C., but was energized by his introduction as a young adult to Rush Limbaugh, who sounded fresh and “rebellious” to his ears, and books such as Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind.
He eventually got involved in the League of the South, which he said consisted mostly of academics and history buffs who talked about secession without formally plotting to do it.
“It was something I supported in theory — the decentralization of power by divorcing from the central government,” Hunter said.
The group also spent a lot of time trying to explain that the Confederate flag was not, in fact, a racist symbol during a period when the flag was removed from southern courthouses, and he said members “naively believed” they could separate states’ rights arguments from the Civil War era with the issue of slavery.
“Most conservatives are not, and never were, racists,” Hunter wrote. “But many have displayed a disregard for minorities for a very long time and in a plethora of ways. I certainly did. Minorities think we don’t like them. Not enough conservatives have tried to convince them that’s not true.”
He said the issue is a problem for the Republican Party and could one day spell its doom.
Hunter traces his turnaround to his involvement in libertarian politics, and in particular speeches made by former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the senator’s father, about the racial disparities in the enforcement of drug laws.
“The same conservatives who say they believe government treats everyone badly were not willing to see how that was true for black Americans,” Hunter wrote. “They either don’t see it or don’t want to see it.”
“I used not to see it,” he admitted. “For that, I am very sorry.”
[Image via Wikipedia Commons]