Democratic strategist Joe McLean, a former consultant for Barack Obama’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 DeSantis 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. in Tennessee who was running against Sen. Bob Corker (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