Even by the standards of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), it was an unfortunate revelation. Two weeks ago, we learned that the senator had hired Jack Hunter -- also known as the "Southern Avenger" -- to work in his Senate office, despite Hunter's past as a neo-Confederate, pro-secessionist activist. Indeed, the staffer used to make public appearances in a Confederate flag wrestling mask and has boasted that he "raise[s] a personal toast every May 10 to celebrate John Wilkes Booth's birthday."
After Paul acknowledged having mixed feelings about Abraham Lincoln, the senator defended Hunter, saying he was just "a youth" when he wrote ridiculous things. (Hunter was 35 when he was still defending the Confederacy in print columns.)
As of now, the activist's Capitol Hill career has apparently come to an end -- Hunter has resigned from Paul's Senate office (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the tip).
Hunter said in an e-mail to the Daily Caller that he will resume his career as a pundit and that he didn't want to be a distraction for the senator, who is considered a top potential 2016 presidential candidate. Paul's office has confirmed his departure to Post Politics."I've long been a conservative, and years ago, a much more politically incorrect (and campy) one," Hunter wrote. "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."
Again, just to re-emphasize, phrases like "years ago" may give the impression that Hunter's most offensive rhetorical excesses were in the distant past. That's simply not the case. In a September 2009 piece defending the notion of Southern secession from the United States, Hunter acknowledged having been a "radical" in college, adding, "But when I came across an old column of mine last week, I realized that I never really changed. I'm still just as radical or crazy, depending on your perspective. In fact, I might be getting worse."
Less than a year later, Paul hired him to help write the senator's first book.
Update: The senator talked to reporters this afternoon in Louisville, and said Hunter's departure was "a mutual decision." Asked if Hunter had been vetted before joining his Capitol Hill staff, Paul responded, "Let's try another issue, anybody else got another issue?"