I wasn’t aware of the racist newsletters published in the late 1980s and early 1990s under Ron Paul’s name before news of his storming out of a CNN interview with Gloria Borger. Paul said he was sick of reporters “pester[ing]” about him these newsletters. When Borger asked Paul if he ever read the newsletters, he snapped:
Why don’t you go back and look at what I said yesterday on CNN and what I’ve said for 20 something years… I didn’t write them, I disavow them.
Rather than looking at what Paul had to say “yesterday,” the Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates went back to a 1995 video (supplied by TMP) of Paul discussing these newsletters he claims to “disavow.” There are reports circulating that Paul made close to a million dollars from these newsletters, The Ron Paul’s Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report and the Ron Paul Investment Letter. Ta-Nehisi Coates has been essential reading on the issue. See here, here, and here.
The time has come for Ron Paul to acknowledge his racist populism. He can say he no longer believes supporters need to fear “racial terrorism,” or that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is a “world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours” and who “seduced underage girls and boys,” or that those with AIDS “enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.” He can say that he’s not sure who wrote the newsletters and that they don’t reflect his views, and he can call attention to his support for gays in the military and say this shows he embraces difference. What he can’t do is walk out of interviews when asked these newsletters.
When the newsletter controversy came up again during the 2008 campaign, Paul explained that he didn’t actually write the newsletters but because they carried his name he was morally responsible for their content. Further, he didn’t know exactly who wrote the offensive things and they didn’t represent his views.
Out of context? Sounds like an acknowledgment of authorship to me. However, whether or not Paul then was, as Dave Wiegel argues, someone who associated with politicos “who saw bigotry as a potent political force” (Coates), or is not the author of the newsletters as Conor Friedersdorf argues, I’ll leave to others to examine. But to my knowledge, Paul has not admitted to knowing who wrote the newsletters. It just doesn’t strike me as credible that Paul didn’t know who wrote the newsletters; he raised millions from them. Surely if he didn’t write them himself, he would seek out whoever did and thank him for filling his coffers.
What seems credible is that Paul stormed out when Borger asked about the newsletters for the same reasons he’s been avoiding discussing them and changing his story about them for years: he’s hoping the story will disappear as it has in the past. But this is not 1996 or 2008; the internet has created a world in which one can run but one cannot hide. Even if he proffers non-denial denials, Paul won’t be able to duck the issue any longer.