Midterms 2018: Racist automated call 'by neo-Nazis' impersonating Oprah targets voters in Georgia

White supremacist group also linked to racist ‘robo-call’ in Florida

Adam Forrest
Monday 05 November 2018 14:07 GMT
US Midterms 2018: The five big questions

Voters in Georgia have been receiving racist and anti-semitic automated phone calls ahead of the midterm elections which will see Democrat Stacey Abrams attempt to become the US state's first black governor.

The racist “robo-call” impersonates talk show host Oprah Winfrey who campaigned for Ms Abrams last week ahead of the 6 November ballot.

It appears to have been paid for by a white supremacist group.

Using racial slurs to describe both Winfrey and Ms Adams it asked people to make her the governor of Georgia.

It also describes Ms Abrams as “a poor man’s Aunt Jemima,” referring to the woman on the popular pancake mix box, an image now frequently condemned as racist.

The narrator later explains that the message that it was paid for by The Road to Power, a white supremacist and antisemitic group with a history of support for neo-Nazi candidates.

It is run by Scott Rhodes of Idaho, who has been linked to several other racist robo-calls, including one sent out recently to voters in Florida, where Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum is also aiming to become the first black governor in his state’s history.

The calls in Georgia were condemned by Ms Abrams and her Republican rival Brian Kemp but it has put racism at the centre of a fraught, closely-fought contest dominated by accusations of voter suppression.

Mr Kemp, who oversees elections in Georgia as the current secretary of state, has strongly denied Ms Abrams’ claims he has a history of using his office to make it more difficult for minorities to vote.

Stacey Abrams on the campaign trail
Stacey Abrams on the campaign trail (Getty)

He issued a statement calling the Oprah-related robo-call “contrary to the highest ideals of our state and country”.

The Abrams camp also made clear its disgust.

“It is not surprising that in a race that has consistently been very close, we’ve seen several weeks of increasing desperation from many dark corners trying to steal the election, cheat, lie, and prey on people’s fears rather than having the respect to listen to voters and speak to their hopes,” said her spokeswoman Abigail Collazo.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp campaigns in Georgia
Secretary of State Brian Kemp campaigns in Georgia (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

She also condemned President Donald Trump for “promoting a political climate that celebrates this kind of vile, poisonous thinking”.

Much of the final stretch of the race in Georgia has been consumed by a bitter battle over access to the polls.

In early October the Associated Press reported that more than 53,000 voter applications — nearly 70 per cent from black applicants — were on hold with Mr Kemp’s office ahead of the election.

Many of the applications were flagged for failing to pass the state’s “exact match” verification process, which requires that ID on voter registration applications precisely match information already on file.

Mr Kemp’s office says that eligible voters on the “pending” list can still vote if they bring a proper ID that substantially matches their registration information. He called the controversy “manufactured.”

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In response to a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups, federal judges have ruled the state unfairly burdens about 3,000 possible voters whose registration was flagged for citizenship issues.

Last week's court rulings means Georgia must start allowing poll managers to clear flagged voters who show proof of citizenship.

Over the weekend, one of Mr Kemp’s campaign stops was disrupted protesters. Two men protesting his immigration policy were forcibly removed from a Cuban restaurant in Atlanta.

Another person wearing a giant chicken suit held a sign that read “too chicken to debate,” alluding to Mr Kemp withdrawing from a debate scheduled for Sunday in favour of appearing alongside President Trump.

Additional reporting by agencies

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