UPDATE: This post has been updated to include comment from Jim Waurishuk.
It would appear that the chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party has an interesting strategy to win over local voters this election cycle.
Over the course of at least a year, Jim Waurishuk, the Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, and a member of the Executive Board of the Republican Party of Florida, has primarily used his Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread a wide range of conspiracy theories about climate change, racist and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and literal death threats aimed at top Democrats.
In a now deleted post obtained by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Waurishuk’s most recent threat was shared last Wednesday, November 27, when he posted an image of three nooses, along with the words “Noose flash: treason still punishable by death,” and a comment from the chairman that read “Need some hangin’s.”
It’s worth mentioning that the noose post was shared the same day that the White House announced that it was reviewing an invitation for Trump to testify in the impeachment hearings, a process which the president lawyer called an “illegitimate sham.”
Of course, Waurishuk’s noose went over well with his followers, with one saying “Hey, Adam Schiff,” and another chiming in with “I’d love to see Schiff’s eyes bulging as the noose tightens.” One commenter suggested that we need to hang more than just three people, “This is not going to be enough rope,” wrote the commenter.
But this isn’t the first time Waurishuk, who was elected as local GOP chair last February, has posted about murdering people. Over the course of the last 12 months, many of his posts have been so awful they’ve literally been removed or censored by Facebook for showing graphic images and untrue facts.
Here are just a few examples from the last year showing Waurishuk’s propensity for lynching and death:
On Nov. 10, Waurishuk posted an image of a baseball cap with the phrase “Make hanging traitors great again.”
On Nov. 7, Waurishuk posted “There is a precedence” with a black and white photo of an actual lynching. The photo caption read: Treason: The hangings of the conspirators against President Abraham Lincoln 1865.”
On July 21, Waurishuk posted an image of an electric chair, with the caption “If we want to make America Great Again We Will Have to Make Evil Fear Punishment Again.”
On May 17, Waurishuk posted an image of public lynching, with the words “Would you support… the public hanging of treasonous politicians” with the chairman adding “Support? Hell I expect this to happen!!!”
On May 24, Waurishuk posted “The Constitution says Punishment for Treason is Death.”
On April 24, Waurishuk posted an image of Obama and Hillary Clinton with the words “Fact: Our forefathers would have hung these two for treason…”
"My private/personal FB page are not the positions of the Hillsborough County Republican Party," said Waurishuk in an email to Creative Loafing. "They are daily ramblings and analysis of my perspective, on issues. The First Amendment gives me the right to do that. The First Amendment give you the right to interpret, draw your conclusions, and spin what you see the way you want – and you have. Unfortunately and incorrectly. The county Republican Party’s public FB page reflects party positions, interpretations and analysis of political events, and critical analysis of the Democrat Party positions and policies. They do the same about us. That’s politics."
Waurishuk would not say who exactly he thinks should be hanging from a rope, only adding that lynching posts are "historical." But it’s pretty easy to see where Waurishuk's "treason" talk is coming from, and it's more than likely stemming from Trump’s constant, and incorrect, use of the word.
Back on May 23, a day before one of Waurishuk’s treason posts, Trump was asked by NBC’s Peter Alexander to comment on who exactly he thought has committed treason, and he responded by rattling off a slew of names including James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Lisa Page.
As the Washington Post’s Phillip Bump pointed out, none of those people committed treason by any definition of the word, and yet Trump continues to repeat it.
While speaking to the Post, Carlton F.W. Larson, professor of law at the University of California at Davis and author of the upcoming book “The Trials of Allegiance: Treason, Juries and the American Revolution,” clarified this point and stated that none of these people directed aid to an enemy, or raised an army to overthrow the U.S. military, as our forefathers directed in Article III, section 3 of the Constitution.
“You can commit treason in one of two ways,” said Larson to the paper. “One is you can levy war against the United States, which is essentially raising an internal rebellion to overthrow the government. ... The other would be adhering to the enemy, giving them aid and comfort. And ‘enemy’ is defined very precisely as foreign nations or groups with whom we are in a state of open war.”
Basically, it’s incredibly difficult to be found guilty in the U.S. for “treason,” and so far, only 15 people have been found guilty of this charge. So, if no one in the past 50 years has been found guilty of treason, who exactly does Waurishuk want dead?
On one hand, you could argue that an obvious traitor would be Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty for lying about taking “money from the Turkish government shortly before delaying an anti-ISIS military plan Turkey opposed.” But even as Vox’s Dylan Matthews points out, what he did is certainly betrayal, not treason.
Ironically, Waurishuk does have a post for this topic, as well, and shared an image of the beleaguered general to his Facebook page last Monday, November 28, with a deep state-inspired caption, “Obama DOJ and their holdovers hid critical info that proves General Flynn’s innocence Attorney John Durham will reveal the evidence and prosecute ....”
But Waurishuk doesn’t just limit his social media use to death threats against his leader’s rivals and deep state talking points, he also entertains bigoted, anti-Muslim posts, like when he posted an image of a woman in hijab with the caption: “If your religion promotes killing non-believers, beating women, punishing rape victims, or selling your daughters as wives at age 12… You’re not praying to the god above you’re praying to the one below.”
In the same post Waurishuk added, “...and yet Democrats turn a blind eye and wholeheartedly defend, protect, condone and advocate for it...under the guise that it is a religion of piece (sic)...”
Of course, there’s also racist posts falsely implying Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar is not an American citizen, and that Obama planted 43,000 Somalian refugees in that state in some sort of long game to swing the election for Omar. Notably, this post was censored by Facebook for spreading false information.
There’s also another where he claims that after Obama, the Democrat Party is now the “Islamocrats” and their logo is no longer a donkey, but rather a camel.
Waurishuk has also shared anti-LGBTQ posts, like on May 15, when said “This is a perfect example of the freak show currently taking place within the Democrat Party…” and posted an image of cast members from the show “Queer Eye” on a visit with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
And, not to be outdone other local GOP climate change deniers like Rep. Ross Spano, Waurishuk also shares fact-less climate-denying posts, like on January 30, when he posted an image of earth with the phrase, “At what point in Earth’s History did Climate not “Change?” He posted another similar image on June 11, when he shared a photo of two measuring cups and ice to prove that sea level rise “remains the same” after the icebergs melt.
Thankfully, even his own followers pointed out that this post was dumb, with one commenter saying “To be fair, I think they’re talking about the ice that’s still on land.”
It’s difficult to say what Waurishuk’s overall strategy is here, but he’s going to have to do something, considering his county is overwhelmingly Democrat, and the Hillsborough Republican Party has a serious issue with recruiting and support for local Republican candidates. As of last October, “there are no declared Republican candidates for the open clerk of court and tax collector seats and two open district seats on the board of commissioners,” reported the Tampa Bay Times.
Maybe another death threat will do it.