FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republican Rand Paul's Senate campaign was
minimally damaged when a staffer was linked to racist images on the
Internet, political experts said Friday.
Campaign spokesman Christopher Hightower stepped down abruptly
after a Kentucky blog called Barefoot and Progressive showed the
racist images, including a lynching photo and epithet, that it says
were posted on Hightower's MySpace page.
Western Kentucky University political scientist Scott Lasley
called the situation "a distraction."
"My thought is that, by itself, it does not have a crippling
effect," he said.
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.
Hightower resigned hours after the images appeared on the
The Paul campaign called the images "reprehensible" and said
they "have no place in civil discourse." In a statement, Paul
said he accepted Hightower's resignation to put the controversy to
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon, is running a grass roots
campaign that relies largely on political newbies to spread his
message about the need for reform in Washington. There are no
big-name political handlers among his three campaign staffers.
Chief Republican opponent Trey Grayson continued Friday to call
attention to Hightower's departure.
"It is troubling that Rand Paul did not immediately denounce
this behavior and fire him, but instead Paul took nearly 12 hours
to make excuses for what a great guy he is before reluctantly
accepting his resignation," said Grayson campaign manager Nate
Paul campaign manager David Adams went on the offensive Friday,
blaming the Grayson campaign for "linking arms with the left-wing
blogosphere" in an attempt to smear his opponent.
"We're proceeding with building our campaign, and we're hearing
from supporters and others who are expressing disappointment in the
Grayson campaign," Adams said.
University of Kentucky political scientist Donald Gross said he
expects the blowup to be short-lived.
"I think people will just sort of drop it," Gross said. "His
supporters will bow it off as just another example of political
correctness going amok."
Political scientist Stephen Voss, also a professor at the
University of Kentucky, said he expects political damage to be
"Voters are pretty savvy about separating the beliefs of a
candidate from the beliefs of one stray member of their campaign,"
Voss said. "There's nothing in Paul's background in particular to
make people worried about his racial views or where he stands on
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)