Like his libertarian-leaning father, Paul is no stranger to political controversy and is likely used to being labeled a “right-wing radical” by liberal antagonists. But it’s one of his staffers who has identified himself as a real radical.

Rand Paul aide is a recovering radical secessionist

(Image: AP)

Jack Hunter first started working for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul when the two collaborated on Paul’s 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington. After that, Hunter was hired onto Paul’s staff as social media director in August 2012. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Hunter has a history of “pro-secessionist” and “neo-Confederate” activism:

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.

During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.

Prior to his radio career, while in his 20s, Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.” [...]

In one 2004 commentary, Hunter said Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s heart was “in the right place.”

“Although Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth’s heart was in the right place, the Southern Avenger does regret that Lincoln’s murder automatically turned him into a martyr,” he said in 2004.

He later wrote that he “raise[s] a personal toast every May 10 to celebrate John Wilkes Booth’s birthday.”

Eek.  No wonder the guy wore a mask — I’d also be ashamed to show my face while publicly celebrating assassination.

Although Hunter has publicly expressed these views as recently as 2009, he now says his views have changed a bit:

“You can be for the conclusion of a war without being for a war,” Hunter said. “I don’t think assassinating a president is ever right, unless it was somebody like Adolf Hitler.” [...]

While Hunter declined to say that he no longer supports secession, he told the Free Beacon that the issue is “sort of a dead letter” in the United States.

“There’s a lot of people who write in print and radio that go out and beat their chests and try to just say the craziest things they can because that’s how you make a living. For awhile that’s how I made a living,” said Hunter. “And it’s not that you don’t mean it—it’s just you express it in ways that does more harm than good.”

In response to the WFB’s report, Sen. Paul’s office said that his staff is held “to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception.”

The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack points out another damning part of Hunter’s interview — one that could have consequences for his boss:

“Some say Rand is not Ron because he is ‘willing to play them game,’” Hunter continued. “That’s exactly right. That’s the point—to play it, influence it, and win it as much as you can. The neoconservatives certainly do, to their advantage.”

Hunter has also said that Rand Paul holds the same foreign policy views as his father, Ron Paul.

“The philosophy hasn’t substantively changed [from Ron Paul to Rand Paul]. The methods and style most certainly have.”

This implies that the senator is “simply pretending to be more moderate than his father,” McCormack notes.  Such a suggestion obviously doesn’t bode well for Paul’s public image as a trusted, no-holds-barred conservative.

Update: The American Conservative has dismissed the WFB report as an “attack” on Hunter…

Free Beacon’s attack on Hunter involves cherry-picking quotes, many over a decade old, and referencing his career as the “Southern Avenger,” a pro-wrestling persona, complete with luchador mask, that Hunter adopted as an on-air radio personality and as a columnist for the Charleston City Paper. Did a left-leaning alternative newspaper think they were employing a hate-fueled neo-Confederate? Not hardly: Hunter’s columns were provocative and conservative, but anyone who reads them, while finding plenty to disagree with—he’s an independent thinker—will not find hate. Naïveté, yes, and a certain obtuseness about minorities that’s long been characteristic of the right. Over the five years that I’ve known him, however, Jack has re-examined his thinking and confronted questions of fairness that the right has too often avoided. He’s done this while remaining devoted to the canons of Russell Kirk’s conservatism.

What do you think — attack or legit concern?