Polls show Texas congressman Ron Paul emerging as the new frontrunner in Iowa for the Republican nomination for president, and with his rise comes increased scrutiny over past, offensive writings about black Americans associated with Paul. Still, supporters insist he’s misunderstood.

Polls are projecting that Rep. Paul is now the most likely Republican candidate to win the Jan. 3, 2012 Iowa Caucus, slightly ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

In the latest CNN/ORC poll, released Dec. 20th, 45 percent of those polled said they would vote for Congressman Paul, compared to 52 percent for President Barack Obama, if the two ran head-to-head in the presidential election. That puts Paul tied for the lead with Romney for both registered and overall voters.

Additionally, a breakdown of the poll shows that the 12-term congressman would receive 25 percent of the “non-white” vote, ahead of Romney’s 20 percent.

WATCH RON PAUL DEFEND HIS CONTROVERSIAL NEWSLETTERS IN 1995:

Paul’s steady surge has raised the question of just how well he would perform with black voters. Just how should the black community view him?

Perhaps not coincidentally, media reports are resurfacing about past controversial comments he’s made on race relations. Many such statements were distributed in Paul’s political newsletters, beginning in the early 1990s.

In 1992, Paul was quoted in one newsletter as saying that 95 percent of the black men in Washington, D.C., are “semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” Another newsletter article bearing his signature called black teenagers can be “unbelievably fleet of foot.”

Other statements that have come out of Paul’s newsletters have included comments about the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday, about which Paul — or someone writing under his name — wrote:

“Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.”
Other quotes:

“Opinion polls consistently show only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions.”

Gary Howard, National Press Secretary for Paul’s presidential campaign, said that Congressman Paul still maintains the position he’s taken over the past several years, disavowing the newsletter content.

“Congressman Paul has said on numerous occasions that he did not write those words, those are not his thoughts, and those are views that directly contradict what his entire career in fighting for liberty has been about,” Howard said.

“Dr. Paul is the strongest supporter of individual liberty for all Americans in this presidential race. He is also a staunch advocate of ending the drug war and fixing our biased court system, which unfairly punishes minorities and remains one of our society’s vestiges of racism.”

Syndicated columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson said of Paul denying the statements:

“The colossal problem with his denial was that the racial bile appeared in his officially approved newsletters. There was no evidence then or later that he wrote a correction, issued a clarification, or even as he hinted they were written by someone else, and, if so, that he publicly disavowed and fired that someone else.”

In fact, Paul has taken responsibility for the quotes in the past, telling the Dallas Morning News in 1996 that the quotes were simply taken out of context.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, is one person who has decried Paul’s statements, urging Paul to apologize and for the Republican Party to sever ties with him.

“We need someone who can represent all the constituents of Texas, not someone who is negative or engages in stereotypes,” Bledsoe said in that same 1996 article in the Dallas Morning News. “Someone who holds those views signals or indicates an inability to represent all constituents without regard to race, creed or color.”

Other blacks have defended Paul, including Nelson Linder, president of the Austin, Texas branch of the NAACP. Saying his views are his own and not those of the NAACP, Linder has said he has known Paul for about 20 years and that Paul’s past statements have been taken out of context or subjected to a rush to judgment.

“Ron Paul is a thinker, also a constitutionalist,” Linder told Austin radio talk show host Scott Horton in August 2007. “He’s talking about real issues, he’s very intelligent, very informed and he’s a free thinker. That’s going to invite attacks on him.”

“I like Ron Paul personally, I like what he’s saying, I think he’s sincere, I think he’s correct in what he’s saying,” Linder said.

Linder’s defense may raise eyebrows among those who recall Paul’s 2007 appearance on Meet the Press, when then-host Tim Russert quizzed paul on past public statements that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society”.

Asked by Russert if he would have voted for the landmark Act had he been in Congress in 1964, Paul suggested that he would not, stating: “If it were written the same way, where the federal government’s taken over property … it has nothing to do with race relations … it has nothing to do with racism, it has to do with the Constitution and private property rights.”