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Ross Wilburn Iowa Democratic Chair, racist messages The Des Moines Register

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Says He Was Threatened With Lynching for Criticizing Trump

Ross Wilburn, Iowa's first Black Democratic Party leader, says he got multiple racist messages following a column he wrote in The Des Moines Register.

Iowa's Democratic Party leader claimed Tuesday that he got a lynching threat and numerous other racist phone and email messages in response to a column he penned in the state's major newspaper criticizing former President Donald J. Trump and Republicans.

Ross Wilburn, the first Black person to manage the Democratic Party in Iowa, the presidential proving grounds, said he turned over the texts to Ames, Iowa, police and intended to seek charges if the senders were discovered.

Mr. Wilburn, an Ames state lawmaker, told reporters through Zoom that the threatening comments were in response to an Oct. 8 opinion piece he published for The Des Moines Register titled, "Iowa Republicans put Trump devotion ahead of helping Iowans."

Rep. Ross Wilburn
Representative Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, addresses the reporters during a June 2020 news conference outside the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

Mr. Trump's rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Oct. 9 was his first visit to the state since losing the 2020 election and the deadly Jan. 6 rebellion at the United States Capitol.

"At some time, we're going to have to say enough is enough," Mr. Wilburn said Tuesday. "We cannot control the beliefs that people filled with hatred have, but speaking up and choosing to act in particular ways is not acceptable."

Mr. Wilburn, 57, a former Iowa City mayor, was elected chair of the party in January. The Register reported Monday on the threats, which Mr. Wilburn claimed began the day his column was published.

Mr. Wilburn stated that on Oct. 8, he received a voice mail from a restricted number that ended with a threat of lynching. He claimed that over the next two days, he was continuously targeted with racial obscenities in another voice mail and an email sent to his legislative account.

Mr. Wilburn filed a police report on Oct. 10 and the police were investigating, Cmdr. Jason Tuttle of the Ames Police Department said in an email on Tuesday.

According to the Register, Story County Attorney Timothy C. Meals stated that his office had been notified. On Tuesday, Mr. Meals did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Senate's senior Republican, criticized the threats on Twitter Tuesday.

Mr. Grassley wrote, "Racism and threats of violence are never acceptable." He stated that an investigation into the threat made against Mr. Wilburn was underway and that those responsible should be held accountable. Americans should be free to engage in "civil/respectful political debates" with one another, he added.

Mr. Wilburn stated that some Republican state legislators had expressed their support for him.

Mr. Wilburn accused Iowa Republicans, including Mr. Grassley, of helping Mr. Trump, who he claimed "openly assaulted the pillars of our democracy" in his Oct. 8 column.

"It is not just Grassley," Mr. Wilburn wrote, "but the entire Republican Party of Iowa is welcoming Trump with open arms, demonstrating once again that they have completely surrendered to a man who has not only openly attacked the foundations of our democracy, but has also demonstrated contempt for our Constitution and failed to assist the American people when they were in desperate need."

Mr. Trump's representatives and the Republican Party of Iowa did not immediately reply to calls for comment on Tuesday.

Mr. Wilburn stated on Tuesday that the Democratic Party of Iowa had taken security precautions to ensure his safety, but did not elaborate.

Mr. Wilburn's description of the vicious language comes on the heels of a string of threats aimed at other Democratic politicians and journalists in response to the conclusion of last year's presidential election.

A California man pled guilty last week to one count of making threatening interstate communications after sending a series of threatening text messages to the brother of New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries.

The texts were received on Jan. 6, the same day that supporters of Mr. Trump stormed the United States Capitol, attempting to prevent Congress from declaring President Biden's electoral victory.

Robert Lemke, 36, of California was also charged with threatening a family member of George Stephanopoulos, an ABC News anchor and former White House communications director under President Bill Clinton, according to the criminal complaint.

In June, a Missouri man pled guilty to two counts of threatening to harm a United States official after threatening a Black congressman this year and a Jewish congressman in 2019.

Prosecutors allege that Kenneth R. Hubert, 63, made the menacing remarks toward two Democratic representatives, Missouri's Emanuel Cleaver II and Tennessee's Steve Cohen.


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