Black Democratic Party Chair Says He Got Lynching Threat for Criticizing Trump

“The voicemails include very explicit language. Every other word was the N-word,” said Iowa Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn.
Cameron Joseph
Washington, US
U.S. President Donald Trump  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn says he received multiple threats, including one that threatened to lynch him, after he wrote an op-ed that criticized former President Donald Trump.

Wilburn, the first Black Democratic Party chairman in the state, wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register that blasted Republicans for their fealty to Trump ahead of Trump’s visit to Iowa on Oct. 9. After its publication, he says he received two threatening phone calls and an email that used racist language and made specific threats.


“The voicemails include very explicit language. Every other word was the ‘n-word,’” he told the Des Moines Register.

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

Wilburn reported the calls to the police, who told the Des Moines Register that they’re investigating the threats.

The alleged threats against Wilburn are the latest in a long string of politically motivated violent threats from the right in recent years, stirred up by Trump’s bellicose lies that the election was stolen from him in 2020. 

Local, nonpartisan election workers faced a spate of death threats in the immediate aftermath of the election, as Trump lied that the election had been rigged against him. Those threats have continued in recent months. And threats of violence against members of Congress have only increased in the wake of the pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. 


U.S. Capitol Police recorded more than 4,100 threats against members of Congress in just the first three months of 2021. That’s more than four times the total number of threats received in all of 2016. If that pace keeps up, it’ll double the number of threats they recorded in 2020. Many members of Congress have responded by hiring private security, a step that was almost unheard-of in the past.

And racially and religiously motivated right-wing violence has risen sharply in the Trump era as well, from the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” riot in 2017 to the murder of seven people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 to the massacre of 21 Latinos at an El Paso Walmart in 2019. ABC News found 54 separate cases where Trump was specifically invoked in cases of violence and assaults in mid-2020.

Angry political attacks have become increasingly commonplace, and politicians of all stripes face them. But Wilburn, who’s also a state representative, said these attacks went far beyond the normal angry messages he gets, and that he felt it necessary to report these specific messages because of the “intensity” of the language used.

“I'm concerned about this type of escalation of comments, including violent references, that are happening, even down to some of the school board meetings and elections that are coming up,” Wilburn told the Des Moines Register.

And he blamed Trump.

​”I don’t think there's any question that he was a catalyst during his administration and since then, for how hateful rhetoric can translate into serious threats against people of color,” Wilburn said.