Aide quits Paul's Senate campaign after blog post

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - 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 The page has since been taken down, but an archived
version stored by a search engine does show the images that led to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.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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