Ron Paul is bristling at a new round of questions over a newsletter he published in the 1980s and 90s espousing radical fringe views, at one point walking out of an interview on Wednesday.
Paul has claimed that the newsletter, which compared African Americans to zoo animals, warned of a coming race war, and generally promoted racist, anti-semitic, and fringe militia views, was written by other authors and he was unaware of its content — even passages written from his perspective. He has not offered up any of the names of the six to eight writers he said were responsible for writing the incendiary material, however, and reporters are pressing him for more details.
“Why don’t you go back and look at what I said yesterday on CNN and what I’ve said for 20 something years. 22 years ago?” He told CNN’S Gloria Borger on Wednesday. “I didn’t write them, I disavow them, That’s it.” He insisted that “I never read that stuff,” before taking off his mic and storming off when Borger continued to ask him about the issue, referring to one newsletter that speculated whether Israelis carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (Note: it was this guy).
But his explanation is still relatively incomplete. As USA Today’s Jackie Kucinich noted on Thursday, when Paul responded to a similar controversy over the newsletters in a 1996 interview with the Dallas Morning News, he said that he was indeed aware of some of the offending passages and even offered explanations as to the thinking behind them. For example, he said a passage suggesting that “[g]iven 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,” was based on outside research.
Video researcher Andrew Kaczynski unearthed a clip in 1995, before the newsletters had become an election issue in his district, in which Paul discussed the publication as one of his passion projects in his years out of Congress. He described it as a “political type of business, investment newsletter.”
Ron Paul’s base is by far the most devoted of any candidate and it’s unlikely the story, which came up in the 2008 election as well, will have much impact on his core supporters. But with Paul surging in Iowa and increasingly broadening his reach within the party, it might put a ceiling on his momentum.
In addition to the objectionable content of the newsletters, his odd explanation contrasts heavily with his hard-earned brand as an unconventional anti-politician who always tells the truth as he sees it and never waters down his views to pander to voters. It’s hard to square this with a candidate who claims that he somehow never bothered to read a newsletter published under his own name that generated as much as $1 million in revenues in just one single year. Even accepting that premise, how many politicians looking to start a publication would just happen to pick a half dozen writers with blatant white supremacist and milita leanings to run the effort?
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.