Rand Paul’s camp threatens GQ magazine

Michael Calderone
August 10, 2010
Rand Paul
Rand Paul

Rand Paul's camp is firing back at GQ reporter Jason Zengerle and the magazine for a piece detailing the Kentucky Senate candidate's "kooky" behavior in college.

"We are investigating all our options - including legal ones," Paul spokesman Jesse Benton told Politico. "We will not tolerate drive-by journalism by a writer with a leftist agenda."

Zengerle, in a piece posted online Monday, described Paul's 2½ years at Baylor University. The Senate hopeful attended — but didn't graduate from — the Texas school before eventually attending medical school at Duke.  Zengerle wrote that during Paul's tenure at Baylor, he "wasn't your typical Baylor student."

Indeed, Zengerle describes Paul's membership in the NoZe brotherhood, a secret society comprising more liberal students at the predominantly conservative Baptist university. The NoZe brotherhood was behind pranks and a satirical newspaper that wouldn't seem out of place at most universities.

But Zengerle also describes a troubling incident involving Paul that goes beyond typical campus jokes.

He quotes an anonymous woman who claims that Paul and one of Paul's  fellow NoZe members blindfolded her, tied her up and put her in a car.

First, she says, Paul and the other man tried forcing her to take bong hits in his apartment. Next, they drove her to a creek and made her bow down to "Aqua Buddha" — supposedly their God. (Not surprisingly, she says Paul was smoking pot, too).

"They never hurt me, they never did anything wrong, but the whole thing was kind of sadistic," she told GQ. "They were messing with my mind. It was some kind of joke."

GQ Editor-in-Chief Jim Nelson, in a statement, defended the piece against charges of  "drive-by journalism."

"We've vetted, researched, and exhaustively fact-checked Jason Zengerle's reporting on Rand Paul's college days, we stand by the story, and we gave the Paul campaign every opportunity to refute it,"  Nelson said. "We notice that they have not, in fact, refuted it."

It's not uncommon for politicians to shoot the messenger after an unflattering story. And media-bashing can go over well with voters, especially on the right.

After a rough May interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow over his controversial civil rights views, Paul said: "I need to be very careful about going on certain networks that seem to have a bias."

So far, the Paul camp hasn't specified inaccuracies in the GQ piece. If it's factually correct, then there probably wouldn't be grounds for a suit. (A GQ spokeswoman told The Upshot that there had been no legal action as of early afternoon Tuesday Eastern time).

Benton did not immediately respond to The Upshot's request for comment on whether the campaign believes the piece is inaccurate and on what grounds they'd consider legal action.

(Photo: AP)