Two former opponents of Rep. Ron Paul, one of whom once worked for the Texas congressman, have come forward to discuss racist comments in newsletters published by the Republican presidential candidate.
Even though the newsletters were never a secret, a former Democratic consultant told The Atlantic’s Molly Ball that plans to turn them into an issue during Paul’s 1996 campaign for Congress never picked up steam because voters appeared to agree with them.
“At the time I was Lefty Morris’ campaign manager, who was the Democrat running against Ron Paul in the general election,” the unnamed consultant told Ball in an email. “Our campaign released the ‘Ron Paul Political Report’ to reporters and later focus grouped some of his writings and affiliations at a restaurant in La Grange, Texas.”
“At the time, the ‘Ron Paul Political Report’ was listed in an online Neo-Nazi Directory that also included publications by the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Brothers (or something like that),” he continued.
Much to his surprise, the consultant said that some participants in the focus group began defending the Klan when told that the newsletters were listed alongside white supremacist publications. “We had a runaway focus group on our hands,” he recalled. “About 10 of the 12 participants were chirping their enthusiasm for the KKK.”
“It was 1996, but Texas was, well … still Texas,” he said.
Ball notes that the first thing one finds when Googling “Lefty Morris” is the story of Eric Dondero, a Paul-staffer turned 2008 primary opponent, who claims to have been asked by the campaign to confront Morris and defend Paul from accusations of anti-Semitism. Dondero is half Jewish, and says he was asked by Paul staffers to wear “a Jewish yarlmuke, and other Jewish adornments” when he confronted Morris.
Dondero recently published an account including his thoughts on Ron Paul and the racist newsletters. He wrote that while many of the Paul’s views are old-fashioned or eccentric, Paul is neither a racist nor an anti-Semite.
“I worked for the man for 12 years, pretty consistently,” Dondero writes. “I never heard a racist word expressed towards Blacks or Jews come out of his mouth. Not once. And understand, I was his close personal assistant.”
However, Dondero also says that Paul “is far from being the hippest guy around” and is “completely clueless when it comes to Hispanic and Black culture, particularly Mexican-American culture.”
Dondero, who Paul has described as “a disgruntled former employee who was fired,” also wrote that Paul is “absolutely” not an anti-Semite, but “most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general.”
“He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all,” Dondero says. “He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.”
At the same time, Dondero says Paul has no problem with American Jews, and even worked to befriend the very small Jewish community in his own district.
Despite the uproar over the newsletters, Paul continues to poll well in early primary states, and is currently leading the rest of the Republican field in Iowa according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.