If you live in Iowa and own a phone, you might get a call this week that sounds something like this: “I urge you to vote for Donald Trump because he is the one candidate who points out that we should accept immigrants who are good for America. We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated, white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.”
This jarring message is just one part of a robocall recorded on behalf of Donald Trump by the American National Super PAC, created by none other than the leader of the American Freedom Party, a prominent white nationalist organization.
In the last month, the political party—which once tried to revoke the citizenship of every non-white inhabitant of the United States—has evolved from supporting Trump’s candidacy to formally endorsing him for president. That endorsement made American Freedom Party history since they had never before endorsed a candidate outside of their own ranks. But the group that represents “the political interests of White Americans” was willing to make an exception for the Republican frontrunner.
“We do have our own candidate, but Bob Whitaker, our candidate, has told us that it is all right to endorse Donald Trump,” the American Freedom Party’s leader, William Daniel Johnson, explained in an interview with The Daily Beast.
He first tried to register the group with the Federal Election Commission as the American National Trump Super PAC in November of last year, but was prohibited from naming it this because the PAC is not a committee authorized by Trump’s campaign. A spokesman for Trump did not respond for a request for comment for this article. Johnson subsequently submitted an amended statement of organization to the FEC on Jan. 6, changing the name to the American National Super PAC just three days before the calls began in Iowa. He also created TheDailyTrump.org, complete with a logo depicting the candidate’s swooping golden locks, devoted exclusively to stories about Trump.
But Iowans have the pleasure of hearing not only Johnson’s voice on the opposite end of the telephone but also Filipino-American Rev. Ronald Tan and Jared Taylor, a spokesman for the Council of Conservative Citizens, which among other things, was cited as the group that inspired Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.
“I think really it has to do with a nagging sense that white Americans have that their country is really slipping through their fingers,” Taylor said when asked why he got involved. “People realize that the United States is changing and it’s changing in a way that they find disagreeable. And it has enormously to do with a change in demographics. It’s becoming a third-world country.”
Taylor, who surmises that most white Americans want a white-only nation, has sung the praises of Trump in the past writing in his own publication the American Renaissance that “this could be the last chance whites have to vote for a president who could actually do something useful for them and for their country.”
He has also concluded in past writing that “Blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization—any kind of civilization—disappears.” His organization is the modern iteration of the White Citizens Council which fought against desegregation in Southern schools in the 1950s and ’60s. It has referred to African Americans as a “retrograde species of humanity” and opposes “efforts to mix the races of mankind.”
Taylor said he recorded his part of the robocall upon Johnson’s request and he would consider joining Trump’s campaign if asked to do so.
“It’s marvelously refreshing to find a fella who shoots from the hip,” Taylor said in describing his fandom. “Can you imagine Jeb Bush saying something that would actually surprise you?”
Seeing as the PAC is very new, Johnson doesn’t have a long-term strategy with it as of yet. He’s put in $9,000 of his own money and is willing to put in more depending on how well this round of robocalls performs in getting Trump an Iowa caucus win.
“I think it’s a foregone conclusion that Trump will be the nominee and the president,” Johnson confidently said. “I think he will probably not win Iowa unless my efforts are successful.”
While these calls might ring as unwanted and riddled with problematic language to Iowa voters, the Federal Election Commission’s hands are really tied when it comes to dealing with the content of robocalls. According to deputy press officer Christian Hilland, the only time that the FEC is made aware of the existence of robocalls is when a PAC spends $10,000 or more and has to file an independent expenditure report.
“That would be beyond the scope of our regulations,” Hilland said when asked if the FEC would police any unsavory content in political robocalls. “You’d probably have to look at something like the DOJ.”
The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had been made aware of the content of these calls.
Geoff Greenwood, communications director for the Iowa Attorney General, told The Daily Beast that “there’s no screening process” when it comes to the distribution of political robocalls in the state. According to Federal Communications Commission standards, the calls are qualified as protected free speech if they go to a landline. If a cellphone receives the calls, the user has to have given express permission to get calls at that number. A representative for the FCC told The Daily Beast that details of any complaints could only be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
But at least one expert said that the content of the calls could stoke hatred among listeners.
“These robocalls are too brief to engage in a complicated critique of their use of hate,” Dr. Michael S. Waltman, a professor at the University of North Carolina who specializes in hate speech, told The Daily Beast. “But they do manipulate the hatred of potential listeners. Jared Taylor’s comments directly state that Muslims are not good for America and that they are not good for America because they are Muslims (he even suggests that Muslims are not well-educated when he claims that we should only admit well-educated people to the country).”
There are no legal limits if Johnson wants to expand these calls to New Hampshire, which is something he’s considering, unless someone files a complaint with the FCC. Which means, there could be a lot more of Johnson and his friends throughout the month as the first primary nears.
Those friends include Rev. Ronald Tan, who immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and now supports Trump’s immigration policies.
“I have nothing against building the wall,” Tan told The Daily Beast. “There’s a lot of danger right now with an open-ended policy. I really want to safeguard the process in terms of more stringent background checks. It’s very difficult given the kind of world that we live in right now where terrorism and radical Islam has permeated even social media.”
Tan, who said that he gets invited to churches “all the time,” has no specific place of ministry and rather practices it “through a radio program” at the moment. That show, called “For God and Country” and co-hosted by Johnson, is set to air on an Iowa radio station from Jan. 12 to Jan. 22, in order to provide voters with “Christian and Nationalist reasons to support Donald Trump,” according to a press release from the American Freedom Party.
For now this ragtag group of white Nationalists can only hope that they are playing a part in what they view as a historical moment in American politics.
“If you were born in the United States and suddenly find that you are living in an outpost of Guatemala or Haiti or Nicaragua or Vietnam, you’re going to be angry,” Taylor said, describing the changing demographics of the country. In Trump, voters “see a man who says ‘Hold on, let’s look over some of these people who are coming. Maybe some of them are rapists. Maybe some of them are murderers. Maybe some of these Muslims really are undesirables.’ Simply having said that is a huge earthquake in American politics.”