NEW YORK -- On Thursday night Reuters reported on a solicitation for Ron Paul's political and investment newsletters from the 1980's and 90's; the direct-mail ad warned of a "coming race war" and included incendiary rants about blacks, gays and Israel similar to those previously surfacing in newsletters bearing his name.
Reuters noted that the letter was provided to the news organization by James Kirchick, a New Republic contributing editor who happened to be cited two days earlier in a New York Times piece that's helped revive questions about the decades-old publications. Paul has long denounced the newsletters and in the past claimed to have not even seen them until years after their publication. But the story's taken on a second life in the media, with Kirchick getting name-dropped by the likes of Slate, New York and the Daily Beast (twice).
Now a Prague-based foreign correspondent, Kirchick says he's surprised to wind up in the middle of a political controversy, considering that his New Republic piece on Paul's newsletters wasn't published this primary season but the last one.
"When I wrote the story four years ago, I never thought that I would have to do this all over again," Kirchick told The Huffington Post by phone Friday, shortly after attending the funeral for the late Czech leader Vaclav Havel.
The fact that Kirchick is doing this all again has less to do with any new revelations concerning Paul's newsletters and more to do with the candidate's frontrunner standing in Iowa polls less than two weeks before the caucus. The political press, which has often dismissed Paul as a non-entity, is now taking him seriously. And with the frontrunner position -- as Rick Perry or Herman Cain can attest -- comes increased media attention and scrutiny.
For those engaged in the blogosphere debate about Paul's newsletters following publication of Kirchick's Jan. 2008 article, this all may seem like old news. Although some publications, like the libertarian Reason magazine, followed up four years ago, the newspaper of record didn't. So to many, it's a revelation.
Kirchick, however, acknowledges that the material isn't new, even if the national press attention to it is.
"It's the same stuff," Kirchick said. "It's the same exact stuff. I haven't uncovered anything new in four years."
In fall 2007, Kirchick began looking into Paul's background after seeing a report that his campaign accepted a $500 donation from Don Black, publisher of the white supremacist site Stormfront. He began digging and spoke with experts on far right-wing organizations. Through research, he obtained copies of Paul's letters that were held in the archives at the University of Kansas and Wisconsin Historical Society.
The New Republic published Kirchick's lengthy piece in early January 2008, along with sample newsletter pages and several selections -- including quotes from the solicitation letter published by Reuters -- on the magazine's site. Last cycle, Paul never moved to the top of the Republican field, finishing the race with 35 delegates.
And this time around, the national media spent little time covering Paul for most of the 2012 Republican primary -- despite Paul coming in a close second in the Ames Straw Poll last August. As of a couple weeks ago, Rick Santorum was the only candidate to get less coverage, according to Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism. During over a dozen primetime debates, moderators -- often preoccupied with Romney and the not-Romney Republican flavor-of-the-moment -- never asked Paul about the newsletters. The newsletter issue didn't seem an issue in the 2012 election.
But as Iowa approaches, editors and cable news producers are now starving for Paul material.
Recently, an editor for the Weekly Standard, an influential neoconservative magazine, asked Kirchick to revisit the 2008 story and take a look at whether anything's changed since then. The publication published a piece by Kirchick on Dec. 16 looking into Paul's ongoing relationship with conspiracy-spouting talk show host Alex Jones and the "hateful and conspiratorial nonsense that Paul promoted for decades under his own name."
The Times followed up a few days later; then Kirchick got a call from Reuters reporter Mark Hosenball asking about the cache of newsletters. Kirchick doesn't have the newsletters in Prague, but he happened to have the solicitation letter on his computer, which he passed along to the reporter. Reuters published the letter in full for the first time on Thursday.
Since the racists rants in the newsletters is well known, now journalists are looking into whether Paul's previous statements in relation to the newsletters matches his current claims about not having read them at the time. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski unearthed a 1995 C-SPAN interview where Paul mentions the newsletters and USA Today reported that Paul vouched for their accuracy in a 1996 Dallas Morning News interview.
On Wednesday, CNN's Gloria Borger pressed Paul on the newsletters during a contentious exchange. "I've never read that stuff. I've never read -- I came -- I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written, and it's been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this. And CNN does it every single time," Paul said.
As Borger persisted, Paul again said, "I didn't write them, didn't read them at the time, and I disavow them. This is the answer." Paul soon removed his microphone and abruptly ended the interview.
It can be expected that Paul will face more questions about the newsletters in coming days, especially when past comments recognizing them surface. On Friday The Huffington Post's Sam Stein uncovered a previously unreported video of Paul commenting on the investment newsletter in a May 1987 interview while the then-Libertarian was running for president.
A Paul campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.