Aide quits Paul's Senate campaign after blog post

AP News
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Posted: Dec 17, 2009 8:48 PM

A campaign aide to Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Rand Paul resigned Thursday after racist images linked to the staffer _ including a lynching photo and epithet _ appeared on a political blog.

Christopher Hightower stepped down abruptly as campaign coordinator after a Kentucky blog called Barefoot and Progressive showed the racist images that it says were posted on Hightower's MySpace page.

Hightower, who had been with Paul's campaign since its outset, adamantly denied any connection to the images, and the campaign said he didn't post them. The black-and-white image of a person dangling from a tree linked to Hightower was posted on the site by a commentator identified as only "D," according to the blog.

"I definitely deny anything that has anything to do with that," Hightower told The Associated Press in a phone interview before his resignation was announced. "It's not me. I'm definitely not a racist."

The campaign called the images "reprehensible" and said they "have no place in civil discourse."

"I have never heard a single utterance of racism from this staffer, nor do I believe him to have any racist tendencies," Paul, the son of former presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, said in a statement.

"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," Paul said.

Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a rival in the GOP Senate race, quickly pounced.

"I think Rand Paul's judgment is seriously in question at this point," Grayson said in a statement.

Hightower, a musician who has played with numerous bands, said he has never had a personal MySpace page, and that he has been targeted in the past by people posing as him on the Internet.

A screen-capture of the MySpace page posted on the blog only has the name Chris. The page has since been taken down, but an archived version stored by a search engine does show the images that led to Hightower's resignation.

Hightower said the blog posting, which criticized him, was aimed at embarrassing Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon who has proven to be a strong campaign fundraiser.

"Because they don't have any dirt on Rand Paul, they want to try to create dirt on people that work for him," Hightower said.

Hightower held several roles, including campaign treasurer and voter-outreach work, said Paul campaign manager David Adams. Hightower had also been an occasional spokesman for the campaign.

Adams said the campaign would bounce back quickly.

"Anything that goes wrong with a staffer is potentially embarrassing," he said. "It doesn't change the message. It doesn't change the things we stand for. I think we will recovery quickly and move on."

On Wednesday, Paul banked an additional $236,000 for his Senate campaign by using the same type of Internet fundraiser that helped finance his father's presidential race last year.

The money came in a one-day fundraiser that pushed Paul's total contributions to nearly $1.7 million heading into next year's primary election.

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On the Web: http://barefootandprogressive.blogspot.com/