It's the biggest setback to hit Ron Paul's candidacy for president: publicity about racially charged statements and other controversial comments in newsletters published in Mr. Paul's name in the 1980s and 1990s.
On Thursday he responded at some length to the concerns during an Iowa radio interview, calling the newsletter statements "terrible" but insisting that he wasn't the one who wrote them. He added that the offensive comments totaled about "about eight or 10 sentences."
Some journalists who have researched the newsletters say it was a lot more than 10 sentences, and that the Texas congressman's response on the issue has changed over the years.
Here, in timeline format, are some prominent Paul statements tied to the issue drawn from transcripts, video clips, and news reports.
1985 to 1994
The controversial statements that have surfaced stem largely from this period. They were contained in newsletters with titles like Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Political Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, and the Ron Paul Investment Letter, rarely under a byline (although many contained first-person references that readers would assume referred to Paul himself).
Some samples: A December 1989 newsletter quoted by James Kirchick in the New Republic predicted "Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities" because "mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white 'haves.' "
Another letter said "I think we can assume that 95 percent of the black men in that city [Washington] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."
An August 1992 edition of the Ron Paul Report labeled former Rep. Barbara Jordan (D) of Texas "the archetypal half-educated victimologist," according to the Houston Chronicle.
1995 to 1996
In a 1995 C-Span interview, Paul talks up his newsletter and espouses some familiarity with its contents. He says it deals a lot "with the value of the dollar, the pros and cons of the gold standard, and of course the disadvantages of all the high taxes and spending our government seems to continue to do."
Paul, having been out of office for a decade, ran for Congress in 1996 and the content of the newsletters were raised by his opponent as a campaign issue. Paul's campaign doesn't deny authorship of the newsletters, but says the Democratic rival is taking the message out of context.
In a Dallas Morning News interview, Paul said the comment about black men in the District of Columbia arose from his study of a report by the National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives, a criminal justice think tank in Virginia.
In a story published by Texas Monthly, Paul tells the magazine that he didn't write "those words." The magazine itself says the newsletter statements are not "remotely like" Paul's public utterances.
"I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren't really written by me," Paul said, according to Texas Monthly. "It wasn't my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady."
He said he had "some moral responsibility" for the words, and that his campaign aides said it would be "too confusing" to argue during the campaign that the words were not his. Paul quoted his aides saying "It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it."
2007 and 2008
Ron Paul runs for president and defends his record on race.
Separate from the newsletter issue, in 2007 he fielded Republican debate questions from Tavis Smiley and Ray Suarez of PBS. In more than one instance, he frames his views as beneficial for all Americans – racial minorities in particular.
In saying he now opposes the death penalty, he says "If you're poor and you're from the inner city, you're more likely to be prosecuted and convicted." He also cited DNA evidence that has shown some convictions to have been mistaken.
Early in 2008, New Republic magazine publishes a James Kirchick story recounting incendiary passages from Paul's newsletters in detail. The article asserts that the newsletters show an "obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays."
In a 2008 TV interview, he responds to a question about racism by asserting that libertarians like himself "are incapable of being a racist" because they view "everybody as an important individual" rather than identifying people in groups.
In the interview, he says he enjoys strong support from blacks, for a Republican, in part because of his stands on the Iraq war and the so-called war on drugs. "In all [military] wars minorities suffer the most … so they join me," he said. Regarding the war on drugs, he says "I am the only candidate, Republican or Democrat who would protect the minority against these vicious drug laws."
Paul is running for president again, and is showing greater strength in opinion polls of potential primary voters. Mr. Kirchick (writing this time in the Weekly Standard) and others revive the newsletters as a hot topic.
The Houston Chronicle Tuesday quoted Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton saying that the newsletters were written by a ghostwriter in Paul's name. Mr. Benton acknowledged the point made by many critics of the candidate: that Paul "should have better policed" the newsletters that went out under his name.
"Dr. Paul has assumed responsibility, apologized for his lack of oversight and disavowed the offensive material," said Benton.
On Thursday, Paul reiterated on a Des Moines radio station (WHO-AM) that he did not write the controversial passages. He portrayed the volume of offensive content as small.
"These were sentences that were put in – I think it was a total of about eight or ten sentences, and it was bad stuff," he told host Jan Mickelson. But, he added, "it wasn't a reflection of my views at all, so it got in the letter, I think it was terrible, it was tragic."
In an email to Talking Points Memo, Kirchick said it's "preposterous" to say that only a handful of newsletter sentences were offensive. "As anyone can see from the scans of the newsletters available on the [New Republic] website or posted elsewhere, the documents contain pages upon pages of bigoted statements and outright paranoia."
While claiming "some responsibility" for the content, Paul said on Iowa radio that "I was not an editor. I'm like a publisher…. There were many times when I did not edit the whole letter and other things got put in."