An aide to U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., is under scrutiny after reports surfaced that he spent over a decade as a neo-Confederate activist who led a group that advocates for southern secession from the union.
And the news could damper Paul's attempts to court minorities ahead of his rumored 2016 presidential bid.
Jack Hunter currently serves as Paul's social media director and co-wrote the book 'The Tea Party Goes to Washington" with the senator in 2010.
A conservative news site reveals Hunter was a member and chapter leader of a group called the League of the South, which advocates the southern states separate from the U.S. to form their own republic.
Hunter also worked as a radio show host who used the alter ego "Southern Avenger," wearing a Confederate flag mask. As the character, Hunter would opine on a number of issues such as celebrating the death of Abraham Lincoln and speaking against Spanish-speaking immigration.
From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
“The League of the South is an implicitly racist group in that the idealized version of the South that they promote is one which, to use their ideology, is dominated by ‘Anglo-Celtic’ culture, which is their code word for ‘white’,” said Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research at the ADL. The ADL said it does not necessarily classify it as a hate group.
The League of the South maintains that it is not racist and does not discriminate in terms of membership.
Paul's office declined our request for comment about Hunter beyond what a spokesperson said in the article: "Senator Paul holds his staff to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception."
The 39-year-old staffer has said many of those beliefs were a part of his college experience in his 20s and Hunter renounced most of them in the Free Beacon interview. But other reports note that he continued to defend those views up until 2009 and produced the "Southern Avenger" radio program in 2012 when Paul hired him.
Observers point out this isn't the first Paul staffer who has been associated with controversial views, and could complicate Paul's efforts to court minorities nationally.
In late 2009, Rand Paul’s campaign spokesperson was forced to resign after Kentucky blogger Joe Sonka discovered the MySpace page for Chris Hightower’s heavy metal band, which was a fan of KKK gear and wishing people a “HAPPY N***ER DAY!!!” on Martin Luther King Day (that post was accompanied by a photo of a lynching).
In recent months, Paul, who is considered a potential GOP presidential nominee, has been reaching out to African-American voters in particular.
Appearing at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Simmons College in Louisville, Ky., Paul has said it's important for Republicans to talk with black voters in order to gain those communities trust and support.
"It's important that the Republican Party to talk to everybody," Paul spokesman Dan Bayens told WFPL in April.
Since those appearances, Paul's staff have continued to reach out to community activists in the Louisville area. According to LEO Weekly, anti-violence advocate Christopher 2X and hip-hop artist Master P had a recent conservation with Paul about homicides and gun violence.