An Iowa Democrat has been threatened with violence simply for writing an opinion piece critical of the former president.
Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register has reported that “Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn received multiple threats, including one of lynching, after he penned an opinion piece critical of former President Donald Trump.”
Ross Wilburn, Iowa's first Black Democratic Party chair, said that he received a voice mail including a lynching threat and other racist messages after he wrote a column in The Des Moines Register denouncing former President Trump and Republicans. https://t.co/olKaKNpGv1
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 19, 2021
Wilburn is a state representative and the first Black chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. And although he says he has become “accustomed” to racist attacks in the state both as an elected official and as the Democratic party leader, he also told Pfannenstiel that “it’s important for people to know that this is not normal and it’s not OK.”
According to the Des Moines Register, the local police commander in Ames, the city where Wilburn is based, has confirmed his department is investigating the threats. The county attorney has also been made aware of the threats.
The racist attacks against Wilburn stem from a recent opinion piece he wrote titled, “Iowa Republicans put loyalty to Trump over helping Iowans.” The article was published immediately before an Oct. 9 Trump rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The event was the former president’s first visit back to the state after losing the 2020 election.
After his essay was published, Pfannenstiel reported that “Wilburn said he received two threatening phone messages and one threatening email to his legislative email address, which all made reference to what he wrote in the article.”
“The voicemails include very explicit language. Every other word was the ‘n-word,’” Wilburn told the paper afterward. He said he could not provide further details of the intense attacks because of a pending investigation into who sent them and the severity of the threats they made.
“What stood out this time was the language that was used — specifically, the very direct statement about lynching,” he told Pfannenstiel. “And I get angry about that — that people feel that they can come in and make you feel less than human, subhuman, with that type of reference to lynching. There’s the history behind that and trying to intimidate Blacks, intimidate African Americans.”
Following news of the incident, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann reached out to Wilburn to express his support.
“I strongly condemn the racist threats made toward Chairman Wilburn,” Kaufmann wrote in a statement. “We can have a spirited debate on issues and candidates without threats of violence. I am pleased the authorities are looking into this and hope those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”
Should the individuals who made the threats against Wilburn get caught, he has said he plans to press charges so that, in his words, “folks know that there are consequences for that type of behavior.”
While the investigation into the threats is underway, staff members of the Iowa Democratic Party have been alerted and told to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior among people they encounter. Security for the party leader has also increased significantly.
“I’m concerned about this type of escalation of comments, including violent references, that are happening, even down to some of the school board meetings and elections that are coming up,” Wilburn added. “If anyone’s ever subject to these types of threatening actions, I encourage them to don’t just sit by and take it. Report it.”