Long before last’s week Washington Free Beacon story kicked up a two-day media storm, Jack Hunter knew that the Republican establishment was working to out him as a neo-Confederate and a racist, a move he believed could hurt the one-time City Paper columnist’s boss, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He’d even sent me an e-mail asking me to remove dozens of posts, ones that he said no longer reflected his current worldview.
While I told him that I would have removed one or two posts — it’s not uncommon for writers to hastily pen a column they later regret — I found the breadth of the request to be excessive, and to be honest, quite cowardly. Doing so, I told Jack, was a repudiation of the very persona he had created as a writer and radio personality. It was a denial of the very views that had made him a local media celebrity and a rising star in the so-called liberty movement, and as such, a slap in the face to all those who had ever supported him. It was best, I said, that if those points of views no longer applied to him, Jack should pen a column detailing how he had changed his mind, but he declined. And frankly, that told me all I needed to know about Jack’s conversion. It was solely for appearances only. It was not heartfelt. It was not true. It was simply to protect his boss, Rand Paul, as he plots a path to the White House in 2016.
After reading Jack’s statement about last Wednesday’s controversy du jour — the one that let the rest of the U.S. know that a neo-Confederate secessionist was part of Sen. Paul’s inner circle — I still haven’t changed my mind. In his statement, Jack — much like Rand himself — tends to treat the damaging information as something akin to a youthful indiscretion, a one-time accident, or as something that was nothing more than an over-the-top personality that he had created while he was a member of the 96 Wave crew and had long-since abandoned. Rubbish. The Jack Hunter of the Charleston City Paper years was every bit as radical as the Jack Hunter of 96 Wave.
While a member of the City Paper’s stable of freelancers, Jack wrote in support of racially profiling Hispanics, praised white supremacist Sam Francis, blasted the House of Representative’s apology for slavery, claimed that black people should apologize to white people for high crime rates, defended former Atlanta Braves pitcher and racist John Rocker and Charleston County School District board member Nancy Cook after she said some mothers should be sterilized, argued that Islam was an innately dangerous threat to the U.S, professed that he would have voted for a member a British neo-Nazi political party if he could have, considered endorsing former Council of Conservative Citizens member Buddy Witherspoon in his bid to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham, compared Abraham Lincoln to Adolf Hitler and Ike Turner, and continued to profess the erroneous claim that the primary cause of the Civil War was not the fight over slavery, ignoring the decades of American history leading up to war and South Carolina’s very own Declaration of the Immediate Causes for Secession, which clearly note that protecting slavery was the preeminent motivation of state leaders.
Over the course of editing Jack for years, it was clear to me that when he spoke of Southerners, Southern values, and the Southern way of life, it was as if the South to him was solely populated by white people, and everyone else was an intruder or at best a historical inconvenience. Jack Hunter may have never railed against miscegenation, championed segregation, uttered a racial slur, or participated in a lynching, but it was my opinion then and it is my opinion now that Jack is the most common kind of racist, the one that doesn’t realize that he is one. In fact, like many on the right — from Pat Buchanan to Newt Gingrich to Rick Perry to Rush Limbaugh — Jack traffics in race-baiting rhetoric and repeatedly aligns himself with racists but then refuses to own up to the meaning and purpose of his actions. And just so long as he doesn’t call somebody a “nigger” or pistol whip a black man for looking at his lily white wife, he can keep on believing that, because to admit the truth would be to admit that he was in fact a villain.
And the same applies to Rand Paul. Like his father before him, Paul has courted the racist wing of the GOP, the faction that wants to vote for a states’ rights champion, a man with the courage to say we should have separate lunch counters as a matter of principle, a politician with the chutzpah to proclaim that he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act. Of course, when the day arrives that this relationship is brought to light once again, Rand Paul will again deny that he consciously sought out racists and anti-Semites and secessionists, the media and the masses will largely accept his flaccid defense, and the racists and anti-Semites and secessionists will have a good laugh knowing that one of their own had to lie to protect himself but underneath that protective cloak of political convenience he’s still one of them.
For now, it looks as if both Jack Hunter and Rand Paul have managed to escape from this controversy relatively unscathed. But make no mistake, it will return once again when the 2016 presidential campaign begins in earnest, and this time, the truth that Rand Paul has a neo-Confederate on his staff will not be limited to a virtually unknown right-wing news site and the more liberal media outlets in the American mediascape. It will be picked up by the big guys, and Paul and Hunter will be lucky if they can pull themselves out of this tar baby with their political hides intact.