Iowa Democratic Chair Says He Received Lynching Threat After Criticizing Trump – The New York Times
Ross Wilburn, the first Black person to lead Iowa’s Democratic Party, said he received several racist messages after writing a column in The Des Moines Register.
Iowa’s Democratic Party chair said on Tuesday that he received a lynching threat and several other racist phone and email messages after he wrote a column in the state’s largest newspaper denouncing former President Donald J. Trump and Republicans.
The party chairman, Ross Wilburn, the first Black person to lead the Democratic Party in Iowa, the presidential proving grounds, said that he turned the messages over to the police in Ames, Iowa, and planned to press charges if the people who sent the messages were identified.
Speaking to reporters over Zoom, Mr. Wilburn, a state representative from Ames, said that the threatening messages were in response to an Oct. 8 opinion article that he wrote in The Des Moines Register titled, “Iowa Republicans put loyalty to Trump over helping Iowans.”
The column’s publication preceded Mr. Trump’s rally on Oct. 9 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, his first visit to the state since losing the election in 2020 and the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“At some point, we have to say enough is enough,” Mr. Wilburn said on Tuesday. “We can’t control thoughts that people filled with hate have, but when you speak out, when you choose to act in certain ways, that’s when it’s not OK.”
Mr. Wilburn, 57, a former mayor of Iowa City, was elected the party’s chair in January. The Register reported Monday on the threats, which Mr. Wilburn said began on the same day that his column appeared.
On Oct. 8, Mr. Wilburn said, he received a voice mail from a restricted number ending with a threat that included a reference to lynching. Over the next two days, he said, racial slurs were repeatedly directed at him in another voice mail and an email sent to his legislative account.
Cmdr. Jason Tuttle of the Ames Police Department said in an email on Tuesday that Mr. Wilburn had filed a police report on Oct. 10, and that the police were investigating.
The Register reported that Timothy C. Meals, the Story County Attorney, said that his office had been alerted. Mr. Meals did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican in the Senate, condemned the threats Tuesday on Twitter.
“Racism & threats of violence are never acceptable,” Mr. Grassley wrote. He said the threat against Mr. Wilburn was being investigated and that those responsible should be held accountable. Americans should be able to have “civil/respectful political discussions” with their neighbors, he wrote.
Mr. Wilburn said that some Republican state lawmakers had offered words of support to him.
In his Oct. 8 column, Mr. Wilburn accused Iowa Republicans, including Mr. Grassley, of enabling Mr. Trump, who he said had “openly attacked the foundations of our democracy.”
“It’s not just Grassley,” Mr. Wilburn wrote, “the entire Republican Party of Iowa is welcoming Trump with open arms proving once again that they have completely surrendered themselves to a man who not only openly attacked the foundations of our democracy, but also has shown disdain for our Constitution, and failed to help the American people when we needed it most.”
The Republican Party of Iowa and representatives for Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
The Times has been investigating how a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and deconstructing key moments amid the ongoing fallout.
Mr. Wilburn said on Tuesday that Iowa’s Democratic Party had taken security measures to handle his safety, without elaborating.
The hateful language described by Mr. Wilburn follows a series of threats directed at other Democratic lawmakers and journalists over the outcome of last year’s presidential election.
Last week, a California man pleaded guilty to one count of making threatening interstate communications after he sent a series of threatening text messages to the brother of Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, federal prosecutors said.
The messages were sent on Jan. 6, the same day that Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s electoral victory.
The California man, Robert Lemke, 36, was also accused of threatening a family member of George Stephanopoulos, the ABC News anchor and former White House communications director under President Bill Clinton, a criminal complaint said.
In June, a Missouri man accused of threatening a Black congressman this year and a Jewish congressman in 2019 pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening to assault a United States official.
The man, Kenneth R. Hubert, 63, made the menacing comments toward two Democratic representatives, Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, prosecutors said.