What To Make Of Ron Paul’s Racist Newsletter

With übertenther Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) emerging as the latest frontrunner in the Iowa GOP primary, Ta-Nehisi Coates chronicles many of the most offensive highlights from a series of racist newsletters Paul published in the late 1980s and early 1990s:

  • Needlin’: Paul’s December 1989 newsletter claims that roving bands of African-Americans are trying to give white people HIV. According to the newsletter, “at least 39 white women have been stuck with used hypodermic needles-perhaps infected with AIDS-by gangs of black girls between the ages of 12 and 14. . . . Who can doubt that if the situation had been reversed, if white girls had done this to black women, we would have been subjected to months-long nation-wide propaganda campaign on the evils of white America? The double standard strikes again.”
  • Fantasies of Anti-White Bias: The same newsletter imagined a fantasy world where anti-white racist dominates DC’s culture. “To be white in Washington, however, is to experience a culture that is anti-white and proud of it. Radio stations urge listeners not to shop in white (or Asian) owned stores. Ministers lead anti-white and anti-Asian boycotts. Professors teach that whites are committing genocide against blacks and invented crack and AIDS as part of The Plan.”
  • Instructions on Murdering Black Youth: A 1992 newsletter provided fairly detailed instructions on the best way to shoot and kill an African-American and get away with it. “If you live in a major city, you’ve probably already heard about the newest threat to your life and limb, and your family: carjacking. It is the hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos. . . . An ex-cop I know advises that if you have to use a gun on a youth, you should leave the scene immediately, disposing of the wiped off gun as soon as possible. Such a gun cannot, of course, be registered to you, but one bought privately (through the classifieds, for example). I frankly don’t know what to make of such advice, but 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.”
  • Beware the “Malicious Gay”: African-Americans are not the only target of the newsletters’ ire. Ron Paul’s publications also feature unusually bad medical advice punctuated with anti-gay fantasies. “Those who don’t commit sodomy, who don’t get a blood transfusion, and who don’t swap needles, are virtually assured of not getting AIDS unless they are deliberately infected by a malicious gay, as was Kimberly Bergalis.”

In a partial defense of Paul, David Weigel offers a perfectly plausible explanation of how these bigoted rants against science and reality came to appear under the name of a medical doctor who now argues that the War on Drugs should end because it is inherently racist. As Weigel explains in a piece he co-authored with Julian Sanchez, the likely author of Paul’s racist rants wasn’t Ron Paul, it was a repulsive libertarian activist named Lew Rockwell.

Rockwell, who now runs a far right think tank that publishes articles with titles like “How to Eliminate Social Security and Medicare,” believed in the 1980s and 1990s that libertarians had become a “party of the stoned” that needed to be “de-loused.” His solution, according to Weigel and Sanchez, was to try to expand the libertarian tent to include overt racists who could be attracted to libertarians’ opposition to “State-enforced integration.” It was likely Rockwell, and not the libertarian Congressman Ron Paul, who drafted the racist rants published in Paul’s name.

This explanation for Paul’s behavior hardly excuses it, however. The simplest conclusion that can be drawn when someone publishes a racist rant in their own name is that they truly believe that one race is superior to another. Weigel and Sanchez’ reporting, however, leads to only two possible explanations. Either Paul is so oblivious to what was being done in his name that this obliviousness alone disqualifies him for a job like the presidency — or he knew very well that horrific arguments were being published his name and he lent his name to a cynical racist strategy anyway.