Dem strategist says he’s never seen anything as bad as robocall against Gillum

Democratic strategist Joe McLean, a former consultant for Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFive takeaways from new fundraising reports for 2020 Democrats Obama sends birthday wishes to John Lewis: 'Thanks for making good trouble' The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren up, Bloomberg down after brutal debate MORE’s U.S. Senate race, said Wednesday that he has worked on campaigns for several African American candidates, but has never seen anything quite like the racist robocalls against Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (D).

“I’ve got a long roster of African American candidates, I have never seen anything quite this bad,” McLean told Hill.TV co-hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on "Rising."

NBC News reported on Tuesday that some Florida voters had been receiving racist robocalls of a man impersonating Gillum, who is black. In a ministerial voice, the anonymous voice refers to the Florida Democrat using racial slurs.

Campaigns for Gillum and his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday Florida lawmakers pass bill requiring parental consent for abortions, governor expected to sign Court sides with ex-felons who challenged Florida voting requirement MORE have both denounced the call. It has not been determined yet who is behind them, though The Washington Post reported that an Idaho-based white supremacist group is behind the attack. 

McLean, now a senior partner at McLeanClark, said the only incident that even comes close to the robocall against Gillum is the 2006 ad against then-Democratic Senate candidate, Rep. Harold Ford Jr.Harold Eugene FordDem strategist says he’s never seen anything as bad as robocall against Gillum Harold Ford Jr. to write autobiography Harold Ford Jr. rules out run for governor MORE in Tennessee who was running against Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (R) at the time.

The ad, which was funded by the Republican National Convention (RNC), featured a white woman whispering, “Harold, call me” before winking at the camera. Even though the RNC ad didn’t mention that Ford Jr. was black, many activist groups, including The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), criticized the ad, saying it stoked racial fears.

McLean argued that while the controversial RNC ad killed Ford Jr.'s campaign and led to his loss, the robocalls against Gillum are “so far over the top that it may actually do more damage than good.”

The strategist thinks the racist robocall is just part of a larger, more poisonous environment that has trickled down from the Trump administration, and warned of the potential larger implications that the president's rhetoric has on society and politics. 

“You can’t run away from it – if it’s a racist robocall that supports a Republican candidate, you can’t say it’s not a Republican call.”

— Tess Bonn