Christopher Hightower, Senate hopeful Rand Paul's campaign spokesperson, has been forced to resign after two liberal political blogs highlighted racist posts allegedly on Hightower's MySpace page.
Though the $240,000 from Paul's Wednesday "Moneybomb" is still in the bank, the positive press the campaign was enjoying has been replaced by controversy that could very likely reverberate throughout the remainder of the Republican primary, especially if Trey Grayson's campaign has anything to say about it.
A statement by Grayson Thursday not only condemned the "extreme racist" material, but also the "anti-Christian views of Rand Paul Communications Director Chris Hightower," who apparently once performed with a heavy metal band that sang Satanic lyrics of songs such as "Memories of Christian Lies," purportedly written by Hightower.
The Barefoot and Progressive blog and Page One Kentucky did a ton of digging on MySpace and YouTube and untold other sites to find the damaging material. Describing Hightower's former heavy metal band, the Barefoot and Progessive blog says "they thrashed out to songs about the Devil, liked pictures of skeletons with blood dripping from their fangs, and had very serious faces." Not quite what conservative Kentucky voters have in mind in a Senate campaign.
After the national political website The Hill picked up the story, the Courier-Journal's Joe Gerth says Hightower denied even having a MySpace page, but the racist posting on MySpace is what led to Hightower's departure, according to Rand Paul campaign manager David Adams:
“Today, the Rand Paul campaign became aware of some disturbing images on a social network site attributed to a campaign staffer. The images were not placed there by this employee but by someone posting on the site. These images in no way represent Dr. Paul or his campaign nor do they represent the beliefs of this staff member. These images are reprehensible and have no place in civil discourse.”
Despite the controversy, the latest post on the Rand Paul campaign website as of 2am Friday still had a Christopher Hightower byline:
Capitalizing on small donors, the Rand Paul campaign yesterday received contributions in excess of $240,000, with an average contribution of less than $65. Over 4,000 individuals donated during the 24 hour period.
And Trey Grayson suggests there is a link between Hightower's views and Rand Paul:
“The views and behavior displayed by Rand Paul’s Communications Director have no place in this campaign. I think Rand Paul’s judgment is seriously in question at this point. There seems to be a pattern of these kinds of disturbing views in his campaign. Given the failure of Rand Paul to separate himself from the distasteful Hitler video that surfaced a few weeks ago, I think it’s time he made it clear where exactly he agrees and disagrees with Chris Hightower.”
As for Rand Paul, his statement does not distance the candidate from Hightower, only from the controversy:
“I have never heard a single utterance of racism from this staffer nor do I believe him to have any racist tendencies. However, it is impossible to present the ideas and reforms we need in this country with this controversy present. Therefore I have accepted his resignation.”
But a candidate cannot choose which controversies are attached to them.
What a difference a day makes (and the mining of the Internet for damaging information). After Jack Conway's "one tough son of a bitch" inspired a widely viewed mockery on YouTube and Dan Mongiardo's private denunciations of Governor Steve Beshear also went viral, it may turn out that the most damaging Internet-related incident of the Senate campaign belongs to the one candidate who up until now had mastered the use of the Internet in his campaign, Rand Paul.