Ron Paul famously attracts supporters from all kinds of fringe causes -- the crunchy raw milk people, the scary white pride people -- but he has a history of hiring odd ducks to his staff, too. On Tuesday, his campaign dismissed criticism from Eric Dondero as coming from "a disgruntled former staffer who was fired for performance issues," The Hill's Cameron Joseph reports. But Dondero worked for Paul for 15 years -- as a personal aide in the early days, later as a legislative aide. The campaign's response recalls the way Paul tries to explain his racist newsletters -- Paul says it's not his fault because he has "no idea who wrote" the racist newsletters published under his name in the 1990s. But Paul was ultimately responsible for hiring and paying the author, whoever it is. And likewise, he employed Dondero for 15 years -- usually it takes a lot less time for "performance issues" to reveal themselves.  

Conservative bloggers are passing around Dondero's blog post on RightWingNews in which he says that while Paul's foreign policy ideas are awful, Paul is no anti-Semite or racist. Sure, Paul is "out of touch" with "Hispanic and Black culture, particularly Mexican-American culture," the ex-staffer writes, but he never made a bigoted remark. Dondero continues:

"Is Ron Paul an Anti-Semite? Absolutely No. As a Jew, (half on my mother’s side), I can categorically say that I never heard anything out of his mouth, in hundreds of speeches I listened too over the years, or in my personal presence that could be called, 'Anti-Semite.' No slurs. No derogatory remarks."
The weird thing about that defense is that in 2007, Dondero wrote a long blog post on his own blog about how he used that same line to defend Paul from charges of anti-Semitism back in the 1990s. When Paul was running for Congress in 1996, his Democratic opponent, Lefty Morris, announced he was holding a press conference to highlight the fact that Paul's newsletter was listed on a Neo-Nazi website. Dondero wrote:
[Paul's campaign manager] suggested to me that since I was half-Jewish I ought to go to Lefty's press conference to disrupt the event... One of our campaign team members, even suggested that I wear a Jewish yalmaca (like a beanie cap), and loudly challenge Morris in the middle of his speech.
 
I did. All by myself I went to the event wearing my Jewish yalmaca, and other Jewish adornment. Half-way through the press conference, when Morris started to wave papers proving Paul's ties to Anti-Semitic groups, I loudly interrupted that "I was Jewish, and was a top Campaign Staffer for Ron Paul," and continued that Ron Paul would not have hired me if he hated Jews.
The implication is that his statement was not the purest expression of his inner feelings -- and maybe more than a teeny bit political calculation. One would expect him to at least get the spelling of yarmulke right. But Dondero's version of events is mostly backed up by this contemporaneous account from the Austin Chronicle
In May, Morris' staffers discovered Paul's newsletter on an Internet directory under the heading, "Racialists and Freedom Fighters." ... After the stories flew off the presses, Paul's campaign faxed out a press release with quotes from his campaign coordinator [Eric] Rittberg: "As a Jew, I'm insulted by the senseless, anti-Semitic statements." To Rittberg, Morris was promoting "hatred and ignorance," and to emphasize his distaste, Rittberg showed up at Morris' next press conference sporting his yarmulke.
Wait, isn't his name Dondero? It's both. He's self-published books (Worldwide Multilingual Phrase Book: Survival Skills for Over 40 Languages) under the name Eric Dondero R.; Rittberg is the name of his adopted parents. And he hasn't always been so sensitive about political correctness. He's quoted extensively  in the book Ron Paul: Father of the Tea Party saying that Sen. Jesse Helms -- one of Congress' most accomplished race baiters -- wanted to help Paul's presidential campaign behind the scenes in 1988, so he set Paul up with his fundraiser. Fundraising improved markedly. Dondero told Reason in 2008 that Paul's staff figured out with his newsletters, "the wilder they got, the more bombastic they got with it, the more the checks came in. You think the newsletters were bad? The fundraising letters were just insane from that period."
 
Indeed, a 1995 newsletter warns of a "coming race war." And back then, as Slate's Dave Weigel writes, Paul gave interviews to C-SPAN in which does not claim they're written by some anonymous staffer.
 

Paul's rabid fans -- the "END THE FED" trolls on every article on the presidential election -- might be weird. He told The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Serge F. Kovaleski that while he doesn't agree with fringe supporters, he won't give back their money. "If they want to endorse me, they’re endorsing what I do or say -- it has nothing to do with endorsing what they say." Paul's right, it's not his fault if weirdos support him. But he can't get off the hook so easily when he hires them.