GOP congressional candidate did fundraisers, hosted radio show with disgraced Trump official who made racist remarks

Guy Reschenthaler

(CNN)A Republican congressional candidate in Pennsylvania is trying to distance himself from his friend and former radio co-host Carl Higbie, who resigned from the Trump administration earlier this year after CNN's KFile uncovered anti-gay, anti-Muslim, racist and sexist remarks he made on his radio program.

Guy Reschenthaler was Higbie's co-host on the radio program "Sound of Freedom" and the author of the foreword for Higbie's 2012 self-published book. Now, in the midst of a primary against Rick Saccone for Pennsylvania's newly drawn 14th Congressional District, Reschenthaler told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in April that he didn't read his former co-host's book before writing the foreword. He has also denounced the book's contents, which as first reported by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, contain anti-gay, racially-charged, anti-immigrant, and birther comments.
Yet, a CNN KFile review of past comments Reschenthaler made publicly about Higbie and the book show that the book was a frequent subject of conversation on their radio program, with Reschenthaler citing parts of it approvingly.
In addition to writing the foreword, Reschenthaler also held fundraising events during his successful 2013 run for district judge in Pennsylvania where Higbie sold and signed copies of the book.
    Reschenthaler often challenged Higbie's opinions on their show, even once warning that his friend's racist comments could damage both of their careers. However, Reschenthaler continued to embrace Higbie while he was making inflammatory remarks on the radio and in his book. (Higbie initially apologized in January for his inflammatory remarks on the radio, although has since walked back his apology, saying that his comments were taken out of context.)
    A spokesman for Reschenthaler's campaign for did not return multiple requests for comment.
    In his foreword, Reschenthaler writes about one conversation on politics between military members in which he watched Higbie say "what we all wanted to say but are too frequently intimidated by political correctness to express publicly."
    "I am continually amazed at how succinctly he can express conservative views," he adds. "When Carl told me his plan to draft a book, I was ecstatic. After reading his work, I am impressed by his no-nonsense, commonsense approach that has the power to persuade and captivate."
    Reschenthaler's relationship with Higbie also extended into his own political campaign for district judge, with Higbie attending at least four fundraisers even when he was making controversial comments on their radio program.
    Reschenthaler said at the time on their radio program that the event was just one of a series of events featuring Higbie. He thanked Higbie for his fundraising help on Twitter, posting a picture of himself, Higbie and Pennsylvania State Representative and show guest, Carl Metzgar at a fundraiser in April 2013 and then the next day offered Higbie "special thanks." He also thanked Rick Saccone, his current primary opponent and, previously, his opponent to represent the GOP in the special election for the state's 18th Congressional District. Saccone was selected over Reschenthaler and went on to lose the special election to Democrat Conor Lamb.
    Back in April 2013, on "Sound of Freedom," Reschenthaler and Higbie celebrated the number of Higbie's books they'd sold at the fundraisers, with Higbie speculating that they'd told 250 and Reschenthaler countering that the number was 350 or 400.
    "Nice," Higbie said in response.
    Reschenthaler in turn showed the extent of his gratitude to Higbie on an episode of their show the month after the fundraisers.
    "Your efforts at the fundraisers, those four fundraisers we had together were more than enough, you've helped me so much," he said. "Without you, we wouldn't have enough money for direct mailers. We would have had enough money to have palm cards to hand out when we went door to door. I mean, you were a huge part of this election."
    In another episode of the show, Reschenthaler discussed reading part of Higbie's book.
    "By the way, I laughed out loud," said Reschenthaler. "You got to tell the story about the book segment. You talked about the woman on the plane. But I laughed out loud because I was reading the section of your book when you were talking about having to sit next to fat people on planes and I was on a plane myself and it was hysterical."
    The most vitriolic rhetoric on the show came from Higbie, with Reschenthaler frequently declaring that his own opinions differed and, on many occasions -- like when Higbie suggested racial profiling or shooting undocumented immigrants -- Reschenthaler challenged his co-host's rhetoric.
    "Putting up a fence shooting anybody on site," Reschenthaler said. "Hig, we have to secure our border, yes, but we don't do it by shooting people who come over. First off that violates international law. Second off, I don't know that the morals behind that -- just shooting people for jumping at a fence. There's one, we're not east Germany."
    Reschenthaler attempted to make light of the comments, saying, "as a criminal defense attorney I want you all to have my number and my business card. So when you start shooting people at the border I want you to call me. Carl, I know you have my number."
    In one episode in March 2013, after Higbie repeatedly argued that "the black race" was "lazier than the white race," Reschenthaler became audibly upset at his co-host. The congressional candidate said that he was "turning red" and "feeling uncomfortable" listening to Higbie's rant, which he called "insane" and "so off-base." Reschenthaler went on to advise Higbie not to post that episode of the show, saying that it could potentially damage both of their careers.
    "I don't want this show posted. And I think that if you post this show, I think you have ruined your chances of ever winning public office at the state municipal level and up. I think you would be relegated to municipal government where this isn't gonna be brought up. But I think if this show is recorded, you're f***ed. I really do. And as your lawyer I'm telling you, I think this is a big mistake to put this show on. I think it's gonna hurt your career, I think it's gonna hurt my career," Reschenthaler said, before the audio posted online cuts off.
    They posted that show despite Reschenthaler's warnings and, the following week, Higbie returned to the subject. The two men again disagreed, though Reschenthaler praised Higbie for coming up with "facts and figures" to support his case.
    Reschenthaler still argued that he did not think it was right to say that black people do not contribute equally to society, as Higbie maintained. Reschenthaler went on to contend that the problems Higbie was alluding to were instead caused by "multiculturalism," which he said was "destroying the fabric of the country."
    "Now we have, because of multiculturalism, we don't have this collective culture," Reschenthaler said. "We don't have this collective memory anymore. We're looking at, well, when did, when did the Latinos come over? When did the Irish come over? And we're destroying that. It's really destroying the fabric of the country. Every culture has the collective history and we're tearing it apart. I think a lot of the problems you're describing comes from that effort, uh, to have a multicultural society instead of one solid American culture."