Ron Paul and the racist newsletters (Fact Checker biography)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column will be the first in a series of four columns this week examining how factual Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has been in describing his career in politics. Reporter Josh Hicks has spent weeks examining Paul’s statements and deciding which ones best represent how Paul talks about his past. Hicks has previously examined biographical statements by Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.
— Glenn Kessler
“I’m not a racist. As a matter of fact, Rosa Parks is one of my heroes, Martin Luther King is a hero — because they practiced the libertarian principle of civil disobedience, nonviolence.”
— Ron Paul, responding during a Jan. 10, 2008, CNN interview to questions about racially charged articles published in the “Ron Paul Political Report” during the 1990s.
“I never read that stuff. I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written, and it’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this.”
— Ron Paul, responding to more questions about the newsletters during an interview with CNN, Dec. 21, 2011
Accusations of racism against Paul first surfaced during the candidate’s 1996 congressional campaign, when Democratic opponent Lefty Morris unveiled racially tinged quotes from a newsletter the Texas libertarian had published during his 12-year hiatus from public office.
The national media latched onto the issue during Paul’s 2008 presidential bid, after the New York Times and the New Republic highlighted derogatory statements about blacks and gays from the bulletins.
The issue resurfaced as Paul moved to the front of the GOP pack in recent weeks, and the congressman appeared to be fed up with the matter as he walked away from an interview in which a CNN reporter pressed for more answers. (See the video below).
We won’t be the judge of whether Paul is a bigot, but we can examine the extent to which he had control over his publications. Are we to believe he never reviewed the newsletters that bore his name? Would he have eliminated the messages if he’d seen them?
Paul helped form the Ron Paul & Associates corporation in 1984, and the now-defunct company, for which he served as president, began publishing newsletters the following year. The monthly publications included Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, the Ron Paul Political Report and the Ron Paul Investment Letter.
Columnist Jonathan Chait noted in a recent column for New York magazine that statements of racist paranoia appeared regularly in Paul’s newsletters, representing a “consistent ideological theme.”
Many of the derogatory comments came from a 1992 commentary in the Political Report titled “A Special Issue on Racial Terrorism.” The article blames African American men for the L.A. riots, saying, “The criminals who terrorized our cities — in riots and on every non-riot day — are not exclusively young black males, but they largely are.”
Another passage from the article tries to explain how the tumult finally ended, saying, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began.” The writer gives no credit to police, state troopers or soldiers from the National Guard and Army and the Marines who helped end the chaos.
That wasn’t an isolated incident with Paul’s newsletters. A separate article from the Survival Report said, “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”
The Paul publications also criticized homosexuals, saying gays “enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick,” referring to AIDS.
The articles contain no bylines and no signatures, just Ron Paul’s name in giant letters on the publications’ mastheads. This leaves a tiny bit of wiggle room for the Texas congressman to defend himself. That’s what he’s done, telling the media he has “no idea” how the inflammatory comments made it into print.
“I honestly do not know who wrote those things,” he told CNN in January 2008.
Paul has compared himself to a major publisher who had little time to review every article that went to press, even though his newsletters came out monthly — and were thin at that. He claims he was too busy practicing medicine and giving speeches across the country to pay attention to the bulletins.
“It’s been rehashed for a long time, and it’s coming up now for political reasons,” Paul told CNN in January 2008. “Everybody in my district knows I didn’t write them, and I don’t speak like that. Nobody has ever heard me say anything like that.”
Certain passages in the newsletters suggest that Paul, or at least someone using his persona, wrote for the publications. One article from October 1992 refers to the congressman’s hometown, saying, “even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense, for the animals are coming.”
In an article earlier that year, the author — writing in the first person — announced his decision to chair the economic advisory committee for Pat Buchanan’s presidential bid, a post Paul took up at the time.
The libertarian magazine Reason cited an anonymous source close to the 2008 Paul campaign attributing much of the content from Political Report to Lew Rockwell, founder and chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian economics center.
Rockwell, whose name appears on the newsletters under the title of contributing editor, told the New Republic that he did not write the controversial articles. He said that there were “seven or eight freelancers involved at various stages” during his tenure with the publishing outfit.
As for Paul’s comments about Rosa Parks, the candidate didn’t show much love for his “hero” when he voted against a measure to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the civil rights icon in 1999. To be fair, he opposed giving the medal to Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II as well, so it doesn’t appear race had anything to do with his stance.
Paul has generally applauded lawmakers for wanting to issue the Gold Medal, but he insists they should put up their own money instead of asking taxpayers to foot the bill, which typically runs about $30,000 for each award.
As for King, a 1992 Ron Paul newsletter referred to the civil rights leader as a “world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours.”
THE PINOCCHIO TEST
Paul offers implausible explanations for why so many derogatory statements made it into his publications, insisting he knew nothing about them. It’s hard to believe that a man who wants to oversee the entire U.S. government — albeit a smaller version — would provide zero oversight of his publications, or even bother to read them from time to time.
The Texas congressman has to take responsibility for the newsletters that bear his name, or at least acknowledge negligence as the former head of the company that produced them. He earns three Pinocchios for failing to do so.
Check out our candidate Pinocchio Tracker
WATCH RON PAUL WALK OUT OF CNN INTERVIEW