ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
I'm Madeleine Brand.
In a few minutes, the debate over putting polar bears on the endangered species list.
CHADWICK: First, one more item on politics.
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, has attracted many voters who'd never really heard much about him until a few months ago. He's got bold libertarian ideas: legalize drugs, end the war in Iraq immediately, eliminate income taxes.
This week, the New Republic carries a story of Dr. Paul's earlier lesser-known days. Reporter James Kirchick examined newsletters published under his name for decades. They contain hateful rants against African-Americans and gays, false information on AIDS, and other troubling content.
James Kirchick read through hundreds of the newsletters for his story. He joins us from Washington, D.C.
James, welcome to DAY TO DAY. What about these newsletters? What was their purpose? What were they doing?
Mr. JAMES KIRCHICK (Assistant Editor, The New Republic): Well, they started out when Congressman Paul was actually a congressman and they were called the Freedom Report. And they were like your regular letter to a constituent that a lot of congressmen send out.
But they were oddly obsessed with conspiracy theories that have long been bugbears of the sort of paranoid populist right. And they are obsessed with the sort of theory that elites - global elites - are out to destroy American sovereignty and eliminate national boundaries.
And then when he was out of Congress, so starting in the late 1980s, that's when you see the real racial and homophobic animus.
CHADWICK: So he was in Congress for a while, then he was out. And it's during this period when he's out that some of the more shocking statements - what do you find there?
Mr. KIRCHICK: Well, there's an obsession, for example, with Martin Luther King, and not in the good way. He's obsessed with his sex life and he refers to him frequently as a pedophile. He talks about him seducing underage girls and boys. And this is indicative really - I mean, if you look at neo-Confederate literature or racist literature, Martin Luther King is an obsession, a continuing obsession.
CHADWICK: James, on the day your article appeared, Dr. Paul issued a statement disavowing the quotes in your article. Here is part of what he said. When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade I've publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.
What exactly was Dr. Paul's involvement in this?
Mr. KIRCHICK: This is unknown. When I first asked his campaign spokesperson, he actually told me that he wrote some of the newsletters and that some of it were ghostwritten. Then when I read him some of the quotes over the phone - these are quotes that had never been revealed before in the media - he said, well, the more offensive parts, no, Dr. Paul didn't write those - which is a very convenient response - and it's not like you brought these documents to the congressman to show him and ask him.
CHADWICK: You note that these newsletters are now somewhat difficult to find. They are in university libraries...
Mr. KIRCHICK: Right.
CHADWICK: ...in Kansas, I think. Yes. But no longer available online.
Mr. KIRCHICK: Yes. They weren't actually that hard to find. I mean, I know a lot of reporters have been searching for them. And all I had to do was type in Ron Paul into a library catalogue search and it came up at the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society. And their librarians apparently had been collecting his newsletter alongside, you know, John Birch Society materials, alongside neo-Nazi materials. So that's the sort of, you know, intellectual milieu in which Dr. Paul was operating.
CHADWICK: We've spoken to Dr. Paul's campaign. They have declined to make him available or a campaign spokesperson available for an on-air interview. They do say that Dr. Paul has addressed these charges in the past, in the earlier political campaigns, that the story is a decade old, and that he has disavowed moral responsibility for these statements. Given that, what does this have to do with Dr. Paul today? Why is the New Republic publishing this material?
Mr. KIRCHICK: Well, this material is brand new. He's - when he says that this news is a decade old, that's just not true. Well, let's take the Paul campaign at their word when they say that the congressman didn't write this. What does that say about his organizational or his leadership capabilities that he's allowing a newsletter to be published in his name for 20 years with vile, racist, homophobic rhetoric and conspiracy theories? And he's totally unaware of this? Certainly it doesn't speak well for him either way, I don't think.
CHADWICK: James Kirchick is an assistant editor for the New Republic. His article on conservative newsletters published by Ron Paul appear in this week's issue.
James Kirchick, thank you.
Mr. KIRCHICK: Thank you for having me.
CHADWICK: And for a link to James Kirchick's article and excerpts from Ron Paul's newsletters, you can go to our Web site. That's npr.org.