A statement posted online by a former Ron Paul staffer attracted significant attention Monday for its strong criticism of the Texas congressman’s personality and policy positions.
Eric Rittberg, who has also gone by the name Eric Dondero, wrote that the GOP presidential candidate refused to use a gay supporter’s bathroom, and nearly suffered a mass resignation of staffers ahead of an intended “no” vote on the Afghanistan invasion. Rittberg also alleged that Paul opposed the continuing existence of the state of Israel.
Paul has himself swatted away Rittberg’s previous allegations, describing him during a 2007 “Meet the Press” interview as a “disgruntled former employee” who “literally was put out.”
Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton told The Daily Caller on Tuesday that “Eric Rittberg was fired for performance issues.”
Benton declined to provide more specific information. “I can’t elaborate,” he wrote in an email, “as Ron respects the privacy of all his former employees.”
Jeff Deist, Paul’s congressional chief of staff, likewise declined to comment on the reasons Rittberg’s employment ended. “Paul’s congressional office would never comment on former or current employees,” said Deist.
Rittberg was a staff aide to Paul from 1997 to 2004. He mounted an unsuccessful Texas primary challenge against his former boss in 2007. (RELATED: Aide says Paul planned ‘no’ vote on Afghan invasion, but staff threatened mutiny)
In a Tuesday interview with TheDC, Rittberg strenuously denied that he was fired, and insisted that there’s nothing suspicious about his use of the surname Dondero. Some online commentators have suggested that he preferred Dondero over Rittberg to appeal to Hispanic voters.
“It is completely untrue that I was fired,” Rittberg said. “I resigned.” He claims an email exists proving his contention, but was unable to immediately provide it.
Rittberg dismissed Benton’s statement, saying, “The guy is a newbie. … It was, like, 2007 when he latched onto Ron Paul. These people are saying stuff and they have no idea what they’re saying because they weren’t there.”
He added that Jackie Gloor, a colleague in Paul’s office, could corroborate his allegation that Paul planned to vote “no” on the Afghanistan invasion. But, he added, “I bet you dollars to donuts that they have her embargoed,” meaning that she would be precluded from commenting on the subject for the record.
“I can’t recall a single person on our staff at the time who wasn’t going to resign” if Paul voted against the Afghanistan invasion, he told TheDC. “Most of them have long gone.” In his Monday statement, Rittberg said that two colleagues supported Paul’s initial instinct to oppose the war.
Rittberg similarly elaborated on his allegation that Paul wouldn’t use a gay supporter’s bathroom. “That was a very common thing for people to do back then, back in the ’80s,” he said. “I gave him a hard time about it, then he started yelling at me. It was just classic Ron Paul: He was yelling at me all the time.”
About using the surname Dondero instead of his legal surname Rittberg, he said, “There’s noting mysterious about it.” He said he first met his biological parents at age 18 and often uses their name; Rittberg is the name of his adoptive parents. “I’m like, no fucking way, I didn’t change my name, Jesus Christ,” he added.
Since he offered his reflections on working with Paul, Rittberg said he has received approximately 150 “really, really nasty” text messages from Paul supporters. “If they want to be nasty, I’ll start being nasty too,” he warned.