Politics & Government

Democrats call on McConnell to condemn Paul for employing 'Southern Avenger'

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.,  opposes government financing  of the arts. That issue is likely 
to continue in 2012.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposes government financing of the arts. That issue is likely to continue in 2012.

FRANKFORT — Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon called on U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday to condemn U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's hiring of a staffer with a history of making controversial comments about race.

Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online publication, reported Tuesday that Paul staffer Jack Hunter is a former talk-radio host who called himself the "Southern Avenger" and is a former member of the League of the South, a group that advocates Southern secession.

"Senator McConnell likes Republicans to call him leader, and he has made himself heard on every issue he deems of consequence, real and imagined," Logsdon said in a news release. "I urge him to exercise some real leadership and condemn the inflammatory and hateful influences within his ranks and to take steps to rid his party of this extremist bigotry."

Hunter is Paul's director of new media and helped him write his 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.

The conservative publication reported that Hunter wore a Confederate flag mask at public appearances as a radio commentator. He also compared President Abraham Lincoln to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and suggested that Lincoln would have had a romantic relationship with Adolf Hitler if the two met.

Paul, who is considering a possible bid for president in 2016, has urged the Republican Party in recent months to be more inclusive and welcome minorities. Paul did not immediately comment Wednesday on Logsdon's statements.

In a statement, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said "Rand Paul has done more to reach out to African-American and Hispanic communities in the past six months than Logsdon has done his entire career."

McConnell is seeking re-election next year and has drawn opposition from Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

"We would hope everyone agrees that racism has no place in politics, which is why it was particularly disappointing that Secretary Grimes failed to condemn a liberal Super PAC's racist tweets targeting Sen. McConnell's wife," Benton said.

He was referring to tweets from February by Progress Kentucky about the ethnicity of former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

"Instead of joining a loud bipartisan chorus of Kentuckians, she decided her potential career aspirations were more of a priority," Benton said of Grimes.

In April, before she announced her bid for the U.S. Senate, Grimes said she had no association with Progress Kentucky and did not condone racial or ethnic denigration.

Paul spokeswoman Moira Bagley said in a statement Tuesday that Paul "holds his staff to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception.

"Our office policy is that all employees treat individuals with the equal protection of the law," Bagley said. "We find no evidence that this policy has been violated by any employee."

Hunter said in a statement that his comments as a radio host do "not accurately reflect me" and that he hates racism.

Logsdon noted that sponsors of celebrity chef Paula Deen "dropped her without a second thought for this kind of nonsense."

"It's a sad day when the cable channels and drug companies show more class and leadership than Kentucky's senators," Logsdon said.

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