Southern Avenger no more: Rand Paul aide Jack Hunter leaves staff, returns to punditry

The man who for years called himself the “Southern Avenger” says he now seeks to avenge his own honor.

Jack Hunter, the aide to Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul who has been under fire for comments critical of Abraham Lincoln and sympathetic to the Confederacy, has left the senator’s office to resume his career as a political pundit.

Hunter told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he wanted to avoid being a distraction for Paul and to clear his own name, which he argues is now unfairly associated with racism.

A senior Paul aide confirmed Hunter’s departure.

“I’ve long been a conservative, and years ago, a much more politically incorrect (and campy) one,” Hunter said in an email. “But there’s a significant difference between being politically incorrect and racist. I’ve also become far more libertarian over the years, a philosophy that encourages a more tolerant worldview, through the lens of which I now look back on some of my older comments with embarrassment.”

Hunter, who has contributed opinion pieces to The Daily Caller, is a personal friend of the author.

The Washington Free Beacon originally reported that Hunter toasted the birthday of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, lamented the United States’ shrinking white majority and compared honoring the Founding Fathers while admiring Lincoln to “praising Jesus and worshiping Satan simultaneously.”

The story set off a firestorm of controversy across the political spectrum. Hunter was most recently criticized by his former editor at the Charleston City Paper for asking him to remove posts and for being the “most common kind of racist, the one that doesn’t realize that he is one.”

Chris Haire, the Charleston alt-weekly’s managing editor, also described Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Pat Buchanan as racists. Asked why he published Hunter — a paid columnist — if he believed him to be a racist, Haire tweeted in response, “To reveal the mindset of the SCGOP and the Neoconfederate fringe.”

Paul described Hunter’s comments as “absolutely stupid” but defended his “incredibly talented” social media director in an interview with The Huffington Post.

“People are calling him a white supremacist,” Paul said. “If I thought he was a white supremacist, he would be fired immediately.”

Others have defended Hunter as well, saying that while he may have been attracted to peculiarly Southern forms of conservatism and occasionally naive about racial issues, he is not the figure some critics have portrayed.

“In all my dealings with Jack Hunter, I have found him to be most impressive, most professional and a committed conservative,” South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford told TheDCNF. “I think a lot of this has less to do with Jack Hunter than Rand Paul and 2016.”