Before Ron Paul walked out of an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger on Wednesday, he snapped that she should “take the answers I give” on the bigoted, conspiracy-mongering articles that used to appear in newsletters he published. Boiled down, his answers are simple denials of responsibility, with nothing to confirm them. Unable to argue that racist material didn’t appear in the newsletters, Paul simply claims that “I didn’t write them, I didn’t read them” and adds “I disavow” all the obnoxious statements about African-Americans.
But while the Texas Congressman would prefer to end the discussion there — feeling persecuted by the continuing scrutiny — he must know by now that as a Republican presidential front-runner, all of his past statements and behavior are subject to examination by the media and voters, whether he enjoys it or not.
Published in the pre-Internet era, his old newsletters — one of which was renamed the Ron Paul Survival Report, in a timely bit of pandering to the militia movement — are difficult to find except presumably in his basement or file cabinets.
What the newsletters represent is a broader problem for Paul, whose long history of connections with extremist movements and leaders cannot be explained away by claiming someone else is to blame. Reporters and researchers who have followed Paul’s campaigns during the past few cycles have documented his ties with the Neo-confederate movement, the Texas secessionists, the openly racist Council of Conservative Citizens, the John Birch Society, and a variety of other unsavory figures on the far right.
At the very least, however, the renewed attention to his newsletters offers a window into Paul’s past as well as a chance for him to clear the record. He may not appreciate that opportunity, but the political press and debate moderators should keep inquiring until he replies fully and candidly:
1. Will you release a complete archive of the Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Investment Letter and the Ron Paul Survival Report?
2. If you didn’t write the newsletter articles, who did?
3. What evidence can you provide that someone else was employed by you to write those articles?
4. How much did you earn from the newsletters?
5. Will you release tax returns or other documentation showing how much the newsletters earned and whom they employed?
6. Who distributed the newsletters for you and how were they financed?
7. Did you purchase mailing lists from racist and anti-Semitic organizations such as the Liberty Lobby to obtain subscribers?
8. Did the newsletter distribution network include organizations such as the Council of Conservative Citizens and the John Birch Society?
9. Do you now “disown” all of the words that appeared under your name in the newsletter, or only the racist statements?
10. Do you still believe that the armed militia movement was “one of the most encouraging developments in America,” as a newsletter article stated in 1995?
Unlike politicians such as former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and former Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, who could not evade the consequences of their connections with extremism, Paul has gotten a free ride — until now. He still has some explaining to do.