Iowa Democratic Party chair says he received multiple threats after op-ed critical of Trump

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said he received multiple threats after penning an op-ed that was critical of former President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE.

Wilburn told reporters on Tuesday that he received two threatening voicemails and one threatening email to his legislative inbox after the op-ed, titled “Iowa Republicans put loyalty to Trump over helping Iowans,” was published in the Des Moines Register

One of the voice messages, from a restricted number, included a reference to lynching, and both made references to the op-ed and were full of explicit language including the n-word, Wilburn, the party’s first Black chair, said.


He said he also received an email that included racist language, but no specific threat of violence.

In the opinion piece — which was published on Oct. 8, one day before Trump held a rally in Iowa — Wilburn criticized the former president and his “disastrous record,” and took on a number of Iowa Republicans who have stood by Trump’s side, including Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Iowa Democrat drops bid to challenge Grassley after death of nephew Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case MORE (R-Iowa). Grassley appeared with Trump at the rally and accepted the former president's endorsement.

“It’s not just Grassley; the entire Republican Party of Iowa is welcoming Trump with open arms proving once again that they have completely surrendered themselves to a man who not only openly attacked the foundations of our democracy, but also has shown disdain for our Constitution, and failed to help the American people when we needed it most,” Wilburn wrote in the op-ed.

Wilburn did not detail the phone calls to the newspaper because he said an investigation is pending.

Ames Police Cmdr. Jason Tuttle confirmed to The Hill that Wilburn filed a report on Oct. 10 saying that he received several harassing and threatening voicemails. The department is investigating the incident.

Story County Attorney Tim Meals confirmed to the Des Moines Register that his office is aware of the incidents as well.

Wilburn, who said he has received other threats in the past, said he decided to report these incidents because of the intense language they contained, especially references to lynching.

“What stood out this time was the language that was used — specifically, the very direct statement about lynching,” Wilburn told the newspaper.

“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,” he added.

He said he intends to pursue charges against the perpetrator, or perpetrators, of the threats if they are found “so that folks know that there are consequences for that type of behavior.”

Grassley, who was strongly criticized in Wilburn’s op-ed, wrote on Twitter Tuesday that racism and violent threats are “never acceptable,” and that those behind the incidents should be held responsible.

“Racism & threats of violence are never acceptable. the threat against Iowa Dem party chair Wilburn is being investigated & those responsible should b held accountable,” Grassley wrote.

Asked how receiving the voicemails and email made him feel, Wilburn said, "Just a variety of emotions, you know, first it's angry, and I think the other thing was just exhausting. It's exhausting that, you know, both as a public official but also just as an individual, to get any type of hateful comments."

—Updated at 5:26 p.m.