Oct 19, 2021 - News

Iowa Democratic Party chair reports racist threats after Trump op-ed

A headshot of Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn. Photo courtesy of the Iowa Democratic Party

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn is speaking out about threats he's received — including one that referenced lynching — in response to his recent op-ed criticizing former President Donald Trump.

Why it matters: The escalation of harassment of public servants and political figures in recent years makes it challenging to bridge differences and resolve problems, the state representative from Ames said Tuesday.

Driving the news: Wilburn, who's the first Black Iowan to lead the state party, called for others to publicly denounce abuse and threats he says is becoming the norm in politics.

  • "Look at what's going on at some of the public meetings and ask yourself, 'Is that OK?' I don't think it is and I'm encouraging others to step forward say it's not OK," he said during a Tuesday press conference.

Catch up fast: Wilburn wrote in his essay — which was published just before Trump's Oct. 9 rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds — that Republicans should disavow the former president's "toxicity."

  • He also criticized Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley as "doing his part to push Trump's big election lie."
  • After the op-ed was published, Wilburn reported to Ames police and the Iowa State Patrol that he received multiple threatening voicemails from a restricted number, including one that referenced lynching.
  • He also received an email to his legislative account that included racist language. The threats were first reported by the Des Moines Register.

What they're saying: Wilburn said he intends to pursue charges if investigators can identify the source of the messages.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Grassley condemned the threats Tuesday on Twitter. Both called for those responsible to be held accountable.

  • Wilburn on Tuesday encouraged Grassley "to be more consistent" with his message encouraging civil and respectful political discourse.

Our thought bubble: Let's face it — Iowa nice isn't always in play.

  • One of the biggest threats facing our country is domestic extremism from our own backyards.

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