(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP)
WASHINGTON (USAToday.com) - A member of Sen. Rand Paul's staff who helped him write one of his books is a former pro-secessionist radio commentator who wore a Confederate flag mask during public appearances, according to a news report Tuesday.
Jack Hunter, who is Paul's director of new media and credited writer with the senator on the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington, has called himself the "Southern Avenger" since 1999 and has expressed support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, according to the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online news site.
Paul, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has spent recent months urging the Republican Party to "be like the rest of America" by embracing minority voters.
Hunter's views sharply contrast with that message.
In one commentary, Hunter complained that white people are not allowed to celebrate their race while Hispanics turn "everywhere they settle into northern outposts of their Mexican homeland," the Free Beacon reported.
"Not only are whites not afforded the same right to celebrate their own cultural identity, but anything that is considered 'too white' is immediately suspect," Hunter said. "The term 'diversity' has become nothing more than a code word for 'not white,' and it's a shame that just because we have fair skin, we are always denied fair treatment."
In 2007, Hunter wrote that "a non-white majority America would simply cease to be America for reasons that are as numerous as they are obvious - whether we are supposed to mention them or not."
In another commentary, Hunter equated the United States' use of atomic bombs on Japan that ended World War II with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.
Hunter told the Free Beacon that he no longer holds many of the views he expressed.
"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," Hunter said. "For a while, that's how I made a living. ... 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 Senate office paid Hunter $40,000 in salary from Aug. 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013, according to data collected by LegiStorm, a nonpartisan group that monitors Congress.
Hunter still maintains a website, www.southernavenger.com, where he says he was the official blogger for the 2012 presidential campaign of former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the father of the senator from Kentucky.
"From 2010 until today, I have constantly been accused of being a propagandist for Rand Paul," Hunter wrote Jan. 27. "It is true. I believe in Sen. Paul 100%. I have been waiting for a political figure of his type to emerge my entire life. In 2010, he even hired me to co-author a book with him. It was an honor. I have worked for him in the past and will continue to be at his service."
He did not mention that he is a paid Senate staffer for Paul.
According to his biography on his site, Hunter began his political commentaries in the late 1990s on WAVF-FM radio in Charleston, S.C., moving in 2007 to WTMA-AM in the same city. He also penned a column in The Charleston City Paper and began producing videos for his own YouTube channel. He also has written for The American Conservative and The American Spectator and has been a guest host on Sirius/XM radio.
Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley provided a statement on the Hunter controversy: "Senator Paul holds his staff to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception."
She declined a Courier-Journal request for interviews with the senator and Hunter.
In December 2009, during his bid for the Senate, Paul fired then-spokesman and treasurer, Christopher Hightower, after his campaign acknowledged that Hightower maintained a page on a website that included racist remarks and that suggested that the government bore some responsibility for the 2001 terror attacks.
The page included a derogatory reference to African Americans in a poem.
The revelations about Hunter's background come as Paul has been reaching out to blacks and Hispanics in an effort to broaden the Republican Party's base.
Paul earlier this year made appearances at Howard University in the District of Columbia and Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville, asking his black audiences to consider what the GOP offers them.
As the Senate considered immigration reform legislation last month, Paul spoke to conservative Hispanic groups, saying "common sense and decency have been ignored too long" in the immigration debate. He ultimately opposed the Senate bill.
The Free Beacon describes itself as a nonprofit online newspaper that is a project of the Center for American Freedom. The center was created last year by former writers with The Weekly Standard, a conservative political magazine. The Free Beacon says it is "dedicated to uncovering the stories that the professional left hopes will never see the light of day."