Rand Paul grows testy defending former aide

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference on Syria June 27, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
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When a former aide of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was revealed in July to be a pro-Southern secessionist who once hosted a radio show as a confederate flag-wearing character called the "Southern Avenger," Paul initially defended the aide, Jack Hunter, before eventually accepting his resignation as the controversy grew.

On Tuesday, however, Paul made a few things clear during an interview on NPR's "On Point" with guest host John Harwood: He doesn't agree with his former aide's provocative persona, but Hunter isn't a racist, even if some of his writings and expressed beliefs are "stupid."

Mostly, though, Paul just doesn't want to talk about it.

Pressed on his association with Hunter and asked about an article in The Economist saying libertarian politicians frequently have ties to "racist and nativist movements," Paul could no longer contain his frustration.

"Don't you have something better to read than a bunch of crap from people who don't like me?" he asked. "That won't make for much of an interview if I have to sit through, you know, reading after recitation of people calling me a racist."

"I don't accept all of that and I don't really need to or spend the time going and talking about that," he said. "If you want to talk about issues or what I stand for, I'm happy to, but I'm not going to really go through an interview...responding to every yahoo in the world who wants to throw up a canard."

"Why don't we talk about Rand Paul?" he asked. "I'm the one doing the interview, and you can go ahead and beat up on an ex-employee of mine, but why don't we talk about Rand Paul and what I'm trying to do to grow the party and then we might have an intelligent discussion."

When Harwood pointed out that Paul had co-authored a book ("The Tea Party Goes to Washington") with Hunter, Paul continued scolding the host. "You think you want to dwell on something, that you want to bring up critical articles from people who don't like me and don't support any libertarian ideals," he said. "Let's talk about some issues. Let's talk about indefinite detention. Let's talk about aid to Egypt. Let's talk about repatriation of foreign capital so we can redouble our infrastructure...those might be some pertinent topics other than doing ad hominem on me."

In addition to his moonlighting as the "Southern Avenger," Hunter had previously made disparaging comments about Spanish-speaking immigrants, condemned Abraham Lincoln as a tyrant, and praised Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth.

On Tuesday, Paul sought to distance himself from Hunter's controversial rhetoric while still defending his former aide.

"If you'll read through a lot of his things, some of the things he wrote, many of the things he wrote, were stupid and I don't agree with. They weren't things I was aware of or reasons why I hired him," Paul said. "I do think, though, that he was unfairly treated by the media and he was put up as a target practice for people to say he was a racist and none of that's true."

"We have a very varied office staff," Paul insisted. "It was just unfair, but it's also unfair to paint a broad brush and say that's who I am, when I should be judged by the things I'm doing. And I think there is no greater defender, truly, of minority rights - if you include minorities to be color of your skin or the color of your ideology - than myself."