A North Carolina billboard that went up last weekend advertises a local gun shop underneath the images of four familiar young congresswomen of color: Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the same four congresswomen Donald Trump has spent the last few weeks targeting with racist attacks on Twitter and in campaign speeches. The billboard reads, “The Four Horsemen Cometh” with the word cometh crossed out and replaced with “are idiots.” The message ends with, “Signed, The Deplorables.”
The term “deplorables” refers to an offhand comment made by Hillary Clinton during her 2016 run for president. “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.” Following the remark, Trump’s base of racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamophobic supporters — like eldest son Donald Trump Junior — have embraced the term, referring to themselves as “deplorables.”
In November, shortly after the four young lawmakers won their seats, Fox News host Laura Ingraham said the congresswomen — often referred to as “the squad” for their propensity to appear together and work together on legislation — were on the “warpath against white men.” She also added, “These women may as well be the four horsemen of the apocalypse for the Democratic Party, if you ask me.”
The advertisement was put up by Cherokee Guns in Murphy, North Carolina, according to the Washington Post.
The owner of the store, Doc Wacholz, spoke to the Citizen Times about the sign and said, “I’m not inciting any violence or being racist. It’s a statement. It’s an opinion,” and added that he chose the congresswomen because “They’re socialists, from my point of view. I also feel a couple of them, being Muslim, have ties to actual terrorists groups.” He did not explain why he “feels” some Muslim members of Congress are terrorists.
Omar and Tlaib were the first two Muslim women elected to Congress; Tlaib as the first Palestinian-American woman, and Omar as the first Somali-American. Omar is also the first to wear a hijab on the House floor, and overturned a nearly 200 year-old ban on headwear in a chamber of Congress.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence referred to the billboard’s imagery as “violent rhetoric” in a post on Facebook. It said, “Threats against members of Congress, particularly minority members are [increasing] and it is driven by the president’s racial rhetoric. This is dangerous!!!”
The U.S. Capitol Police has seen a growing number of threats leveled against members of Congress since Donald Trump took office, and halfway through 2019, the agency is on track to surpass last year’s record number of threats. “We continue to see the threat assessment cases that we’re opening continue to grow. For FY 2018, we had approximately 4,894 cases. So far for this year, we have 2,502 cases,” said Chief Steven Sund in July.
This billboard has come at a time when some of these lawmakers of color have received violent threats, and only weeks after President Donald Trump sent racist tweets saying that the four lawmakers should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” instead of telling people “how our government is to be run.”
Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, and Pressley were born in the United States, and Omar came to the U.S. as a child from Somalia. She has been a U.S. citizen since she was a teenager. During a rally in North Carolina on July 17, Trump falsely claimed Omar celebrated Americans’ deaths and “smeared U.S. service members involved in Black Hawk Down.” He also (falsely, of course) portrayed her as supportive of terrorist groups.
In April, a Florida man, John Kless, called both Omar and Tlaib’s office and used racial epithets to describe them. He called Tlaib’s office and left a message in which he unleashed a tirade against Omar, and used racial epithets to describe her and Tlaib. He referred to Tlaib as “Taliban.” During one of his phone calls, he said, “You know what, she’s lucky she’s just getting death threats,” referring to previous threats against Omar. “So are you. All right? … ‘Cuz the day when the bell tolls … and this country comes to a war, there will be no more threats.”
Omar in particular has received a number of threats against her after a comment she made in passing referring to 9/11 was drastically and purposefully misrepresented by conservative media and the president, and after a tweet suggesting that pro-Israel groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) paid for the support of members of Congress, a tweet that some lawmakers from both parties said used anti-Semitic tropes. Omar apologized for the tweet. In April, a man called Omar’s office and said, “I’ll put a bullet in her fucking skull.”
In July, the Times-Picayune reported that a police officer in Gretna, Louisiana named Charlie Rispoli said of Ocasio-Cortez, “This vile idiot needs a round……..and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve.” He and a fellow police officer who liked the post were fired.