The Republican Jewish Coalition called on Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) on Friday to distance himself from close aide Jack Hunter, a former radio pundit with a history of supporting pro-Confederacy and pro-secessionist causes.
“I think it’s incumbent upon him going forward that ultimately that this guy—not just saying that he disagrees with him, but we’re going to see going forward that this guy won’t have a role,” Matt Brooks, the executive director of the RJC, told the JTA.
The Washington Free Beacon first reported on Hunter’s support for the Confederacy and praise for Abraham Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth during his decade-plus career as a radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.”
Hunter, who has worked as Paul’s social media director since 2012 and co-wrote his 2011 book, told the Free Beacon that he no longer holds many of these views in an interview on Monday.
Paul said in a Thursday interview with the Huffington Post that he disagrees with many of Hunter’s comments, but said he is standing by his close aide.
While calling on Paul to dissociate from Hunter, Brooks also praised the senator’s recent Jewish outreach efforts.
“It’s important to recognize that he is interested in having a good relationship with the Jewish community,” Brooks told the JTA. “He’s trying to demonstrate by actions that he is different from his father.
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) called on the RJC to take a position on Hunter on Thursday.
“We see that Sen. Paul is forcefully standing by his aide, despite everything that has come to light. Responsible Republicans including the Republican Jewish Coalition should be speaking out to make sure that the Republican Party understands that these types of views are unacceptable," said NJDC interim director Aaron Keyak.
Paul has attempted to differentiate himself from his father, who is perceived as anti-Israel. The senator held a private meeting with the RJC board in June, which Brooks said included “pleasant surprises.”
“While there may be areas of disagreement, [Paul] is very, very different — and certainly different with regard to his father,” Brooks told the Washington Post after the meeting.
But Hunter’s comments, particularly his claim in January that Paul’s pro-Israel outreach was a “little rhetorical concession” and part of “play[ing] the game,” drew concern from pro-Israel leaders this week.
The Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) Mort Klein called on Paul to clarify that his pro-Israel comments have been genuine. The ZOA’s campus arm hosted Paul at a lunch in May.
Other pro-Israel leaders told the Free Beacon that they did not trust the sincerity of Paul’s pro-Israel outreach to begin with.
“The Southern Avenger shouldn’t worry, we didn’t believe Sen. Paul either,” said Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel.
While Paul has been criticized for not distancing himself from Hunter, some of Hunter’s former associates have also blasted him as inauthentic.
Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, said he knew Hunter from his time at Taki’s Magazine, when Spencer was an editor and Hunter a contributor. He criticized both Hunter and Paul in a video statement posted on the NPI website, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin reported.
“‘Playing the game’ in Jack’s or Rand Paul’s notion, is that the game’s essentially playing you,” Spencer claimed. “You’re not doing what neoconservatives did, you’re just being controlled by certain interests in Washington.”
Michael Hill, president of the League of the South, an organization Hunter served as a chairman of in his mid-20s, also released a statement.
“As President of The League of the South, I’d like to thank Rand Paul, the GOP, Salon, and all the other cultural, social, economic, and political organs that are helping us separate the proverbial men from the boys,” Hill said. “To wit, you are helping us destroy any ‘middle ground’ to which the timid can retreat for safety. Soon, those like Mr. Hunter will learn that there’s no place in the GOP for Southerners who wish to remain.”
“Here’s what we stand for: The survival, well being, and independence of the Southern people,” Hill continued. “And by ‘the Southern people,’ we mean White Southerners who are not afraid to stand for the people of their race and region.”
While the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) considers the League of the South an “implicitly racist” group, it stops short of classifying it as a hate group. The ADL said the organization has grown more extreme since the 1990s, when Hunter was a member.
Paul is currently on a trip to Nevada, which some see as laying the groundwork for a potential 2016 bid.
In an interview with Breitbart on Thursday, he said he was considering a run for president.
“We’ve been thinking about it,” Paul said. “And we will continue to think about it probably until after the 2014 elections.”
He also said that while he was in Nevada he was going to ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to tell the U.S. intelligence community to stop secretly surveilling him.
“I’m going to tell him that the NSA needs to quit spying on me and leave me alone,” Paul said.