Phone

BY BRYAN McKENZIE

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Racist rhetoric in random robocalls ringing Charlottesville-area phones are being traced to an Idaho white supremacist who has arranged similar calls placed across the country in the past year.

The recorded message calls for the repeal of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which gave black people the right to vote, and ethnically cleansing the country by expelling nonwhites to other countries.

The calls, with a 434 area code, show up as coming from Wachovia, a North Carolina-based bank that was swallowed up by Wells Fargo after the recession. The number attached to the calls rings unanswered upon callback.

The calls claim to be paid for by a white supremacist, pro-Nazi, racist, anti-Semitic website and podcast operation in Sandpoint, Idaho, called The Road to Power.

Similar computer-delivered calls have been made to Californians in support of a Holocaust-denying political opponent of Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif.; to Alexandria city officials; and to transit officials in Spokane, Wash. The calls all were made after news events that received national coverage, such as the recent protests in Charlottesville to mark one year since the deadly Unite the Right rally last August.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Virginia law enforcement officials have traced the past calls to Scott D. Rhodes, a resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, who runs the podcast.

Staffers of two newspapers, The Spokesman-Review in Spokane and Sandpoint Reader in Idaho, said they have investigated Rhodes’ involvement in other robocalls and that he has been implicated by Sandpoint authorities in a campaign to distribute racist pamphlets and flyers to the community’s schools.

Police say the calls — while annoying, disturbing and unwanted — are not illegal. The calls use the same computer technology used by political candidates and parties.

“We’ve had some complaints and we’ve tried the phone number attached to the calls, but they’ve obviously been ‘spoofed,’ or faked,” said Capt. Darrell Byers of the Albemarle County Police Department. “There’s nothing we can really do, but we encourage people who receive them to report them.”

Several local businesses received the calls, as did area residents.

“I came in to check the voicemail at work, and that’s what came out,” said a local businessman who asked not to be identified to avoid harassment and reprisals. “Another businessman I know got the call twice, once on Thursday and once [on Friday].”

The man described the calls as “over the top.”

“There are many things about it that just don’t seem real,” he said. “It’s sad that these people feel like they have support and sympathy.”

The previous spate of racist calls in the state was in June after white nationalist Richard Spencer was confronted in an Alexandria gym by a Georgetown University professor. The health club canceled Spencer’s membership.

The professor’s photo was printed on flyers distributed around Alexandria about the time that the calls were made, according to news reports.

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