SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans confirmed Monday that party staff were dispersed to various locations following a “specific death threat” made against him.
The threat comes on the heels of a controversial interview with CNN last week when Evans insisted inquiries should be made into whether former President Bill Clinton fathered an illegitimate son with a woman he paid for sex. Evans’ comments were cut off midsentence by host Carol Costello.
Speaking with reporters Monday, Evans played a voicemail left at the party office Thursday following the interview in which a man says, “You might want to tell that lying (racial slur) James Evans he’s lucky he isn’t being lynched right now.”
Evans said the voicemail, which came from a Texas area code, was just one of several calls the party office has received since the interview, including negative calls. Those negative calls did not, however, include threats, he said.
Contacted by reporters Monday, a man who answered at the number associated with the voicemail said the phone is connected to a dog exercise business and is in a location where it can be accessed by the public. Because he cannot vouch for everyone who might have used the phone, the man, who declined to give his name, said he couldn’t say whether the threat originated from the number.
The man expressed his dismay at the tensions surrounding the election nationally and said he believes the political climate “needs to be tamped down a bit.”
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In recent weeks, Evans said he has also seen individuals passing outside the GOP’s downtown office showing “signs of displeasure” at the sight of the Republican Party logo or presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “Make America great again” campaign slogan in the window.
“I’ve never seen it get to this level,” he said.
Evans confirmed Monday that in light of a threat received against his life, staffers will not be working in the state GOP office, which he called a “sitting target,” but will be moved instead to various locations. The party also won’t publish the hours staffers are working.
“It’s just gotten to a point that we’re going to disperse out of here. I’m more concerned about our staff being safe between now and the end of the election cycle,” Evans said. “We’re going to be working out of other locations to make sure we can do the job that we’re supposed to do, which is to help get our Republicans elected.”
Even before considering the voicemail, staffers were meeting Monday morning to discuss installing additional security at the office, including a lock on the door that would require visitors to be buzzed in by someone in the building, Evans said.
The push for safety comes in response to an attack over the weekend in North Carolina, Evans said, where a Republican Party office was firebombed and swastikas and phrases like “Nazi Republicans leave town or else” were spray-painted nearby.
Because the threat appears to have come following the contentious CNN interview, Evans said it was obviously made by “someone who supports Clinton.”
Evans, who is originally from South Carolina, said the experience has reminded him of what it was like to grow up in the South in the 1960s. He said he had never received death threats before.
“Once it gets to that level, then generally I know what’s coming next, so you just want to stay ahead of it,” said Evans, promising the threat won’t distract from the party’s mission.
“Generally it’s one call, then it will be others, and then there’s usually some kind of action,” he said. “You just don’t want to allow yourself to be a target.”
No matter who someone supports, Evans said, differences of opinion should not rise to threats but should be “settled at the ballot box.”
Evans said he will be handing the recording over to law enforcement for investigation.
Speaking to families about the Family First Act on Monday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he was not aware of the threat against Evans but voiced his concern about allowing such hostility to influence the election.
“There should not be death threats against anybody. This campaign is a very interesting campaign. People on both sides are very, very rabid about those feelings,” Hatch said.
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