Democrats have been in a froth this week in the aftermath of Saturday's contentious, and at times violent, Nevada state convention. As Rolling Stone reported Tuesday, Bernie Sanders supporters, incensed by the party's handling of the proceedings — and the fact that Sanders failed to hold on to two pledged delegates he unexpectedly gained at the Clark County convention — clashed with Clinton supporters, who in turn called for the Sanders supporters' arrest.
Pissed off Sanders supporters, watching the events unfold online from around the country, began circulating the personal contact information for state party chair Roberta Lange. As a result, Lange became the target of a barrage of harassment, including death threats and threats of violence sent via voicemail and text message. On Monday, the party shared many of those messages — notably, and perhaps regrettably, without redacting some of the senders' phone numbers.
Rolling Stone spoke to several of the men who sent Lange angry, menacing text messages to find out what was going through their heads as they pelted a stranger with epithets and threats, both veiled or explicit, to her and her family's safety, and to find out if — as some diehard Sanders supporters have suggested — they were actually Clinton campaign operatives out to smear Bernie.
They were not. All of the men we spoke to were genuine Sanders supporters, most with well-documented histories online of feeling the Bern. (Although only their first names are used below and their phone numbers have been redacted, we verified all of their identities.)
None of them were present at the convention; none of them even live in Nevada. They watched from their homes in Texas, Georgia and Utah, and felt the brazen theft they witnessed validated their actions. All of the men we spoke to reject the idea that their words could be interpreted as threats or harassment. And all of them were concerned about the media contorting their words. So, in their words — edited only for length and clarity — here is what they had to say for themselves.
I think you may have the wrong number.
No, I don't think I do. Is this [redacted phone number]? I'm curious about these texts that you sent — why you sent them.
I can't say for sure what we're talking about right now.
They're texts sent from your number: "Answer the phone bitch." "You're fired bitch." Images of dead animals next to Roberta Lange's photo.
I'm driving right now. I can't really hear you.
Really? You're coming in clear.
Hold on, hold on. Let me turn my volume up. All I have to say is that I have been getting phone calls and text messages and voicemails and tweets and even emails all day long that have been, if not worse, equivalent to anything that anybody may have said on Saturday.
What was going through your head when you sent the texts?
People get upset about stuff, and they say things in the heat of the moment. I regret saying anything I may have said that may have been offensive or taken as a threat, yeah. Anything that I've ever said to anybody, of course, I regret that. In this specific situation, I would definitely say that I would regret saying anything like that. I don't have any ill will toward anybody, any political establishment, or party, or campaign, or [anyone] associated with any of those people.
What did you think when you read Bernie's statement disavowing personal attacks like these?
I agree with him. I've completely apologized both on Twitter and via a correspondence directly with the Nevada Democratic chairwoman. I believe I sent an email as well. I completely agree that it's something that's unfortunate, and, definitely, it's not a good way to get anybody's point across.
What went through your head when you started getting calls today and tweets and emails letting you know your phone number was attached to these texts?
I was confused at first. I mean, when you see somebody's phone number floating around on the Internet, I wasn't sure I knew for sure if it was hers or not…. I was a little bit surprised, but then I will say that I have heard many things on TV recently that I guess go along with this.... I've heard people's voicemails that were pretty hurtful — things they said and death threats [that] should be condemned.
Do you worry when you're writing texts like these that they might be bad for the Sanders campaign?
I am going to get in so much trouble for answering this phone call, but since I guess we're bringing the topic up, personally, I don't work for any campaign. I don't know anybody who does. I was not talking to anybody on Saturday. I was watching it with myself and my boyfriend, and we were just watching it in our own home. So just to make it very clear, there's nobody else. When you call me, I'm the only person. Like, I haven't talked to anybody else [who] may have done anything like that. I just want to make sure [you know] that I'm not with any organization or anything like that.
Right, but your social media accounts show you have a long history of supporting Bernie. So are you worried about that?
You're right, stuff like that doesn't benefit the campaign, but it's not necessarily about his campaign, as [much as] it is [about] anger. And I'm not justifying any threats or anything like that, but I would justify people who were upset. Because there is clearly stuff that should not have happened that did happen on Saturday. I can speak for myself: that was very upsetting to me, and the person I was viewing it with, because it felt like democracy was stolen. Like, people weren't getting their voices heard. The DNC is a private organization — they can do whatever they want to do, but if you watch the video, and I'm sure you have (there are several videos and live-streams and news reports), you could understand there were a few different times when [Lange] didn't do the best job of making sure people's voices were heard fairly.
So you and your boyfriend were watching this all unfold online from your home in another state?
This is our first primary. Just because of my age, the first thing we've gotten to participate in was a prime presidential primary, and so the emotions [ran high]. I've got a group of friends, we all like to watch the debates together. We've all just graduated recently, so this is our first primary to be a part of. We get emotional about this stuff…. People on Twitter have told me that I hate women, that I'm a white supremacist — have called me all sorts of things. You know, I supported Hillary at the very beginning of this primary season before I found out who Bernie Sanders was. And, like I said, I'm just one person. I don't have any affiliation with anybody.
What was going through your head as you were watching?
I was just personally upset at the time. It felt like something was taken, and I saw something on Twitter that somebody had posted — that image that you refer to — and all I can say is that I made a regrettable decision. It's not the way that you should handle a disagreement like that. But as far as death threats go, I can say that I would never wish anybody any harm like that; anybody who knows who I am, I am not for any sort of violence. Just to clear that up.
I think people are curious about who sends these kinds of messages. There is a conspiracy that these weren't Bernie Sanders supporters at all, but operatives for Hillary Clinton.
See, that's what I'm trying to say: I am just a person who said something, and a lot of times I think the media — especially the mainstream media, not you guys, you guys have been pretty nice to both Democratic nominees — but a lot of times the media likes to make it look like there is more to it than just what happened.
I completely do not want anything to be taken as me justifying anything. What I would say is I apologized, and I would again apologize to anybody for saying anything that may have been offensive or threatening. That was not the intended case. It may have [been] meant to be intimidating or to express anger, but it was not meant to be an actual threat, and I was not expecting people [would actually call] with death threats, because I heard some of those this morning on MSNBC. I wasn't expecting that from anybody. But like I said, I'm only one person. I can't speak for them. I know that I don't have any ill feelings toward anyone, and I would never intend on hurting anybody. I just feel that Bernie hasn't had a very even chance in this primary, and if you don't make it through the primary, which is a semi-private function, then you have no shot of being elected president, and I express great dissatisfaction with that system. And I mean I can't — I'm probably saying way too much.
Like I said, my choice of words was a mistake, saying anything that could be taken as a threat was a mistake, it was something that was not meant seriously, and, you know, I have said [I'm] sorry, I have apologized. I hope that both sides of this can move on, work together and move on, because it's definitely not helping any of us at all, being divided.
Hi. Your text message to Roberta Lange was included in the batch of harassing messages the Nevada Democrats just posted online.
I sent one more [text message] today. I told her that I won't text her anymore, but I want her to post this last text regarding her rigging the system for Hillary.... That's gonna probably be the last post I'm ever going to post to her again. I was watching online, and I watched multiple videos of what happened, and in my opinion what happened is she stole democracy from the majority of the people there, and I believe that she has to answer for millions of people who know what she did.
Now, on the other hand, if she did get messages, either text or via phone, about personal threats on her person, I do not believe that is right. I will say that they should not be doing that, in my opinion. That is wrong.
What about the fact that you included her home address in your texts? Some would perceive that as a threat.
That's — I didn't text that right [in the text message screengrabbed above]. I should have ended that with: She has millions of people that she has to answer for, and everybody knows her number, where she lives. Like I said, that was not texted correctly, and I didn't mean that to be a threat.
You wouldn't do it again if you knew it would be perceived as threatening?
Yes, if it was taken as a personal threat, I wouldn't have texted that.
Tell me about when you started feeling the Bern.
He is not a corporate politician, for one. Two, of all the people that [ran for] president, there were only two who talked about bad trade policies that allowed millions of jobs — middle-class jobs — to go overseas: That is Bernie, and that is Trump. Now, I'm not a Trump supporter because of other things that he has said that I don't agree with, but I am a Bernie supporter because he understands what the real issues are, and he is forward-thinking. He is able to detect things that have happened before, and I totally support him because I feel he is the only honest person that I can actually get behind [in the race].
I really didn't follow politics until I heard one of his speeches and then I went on YouTube, I investigated and watched every speech he did that showed for 20, 30 years he fought for the middle class. So he has a huge record of protecting us or trying to protect us. Two, I went to his website and I looked up all of the things that he is going to try to do when it comes to being president. And while I don't necessarily agree with every single one of them, I agree with most of them.
Did his positions on trade resonate with you because you've lost a job to outsourcing?
I haven't, but I'm not a Bernie supporter because of me. I'm a Bernie supporter because I feel worried of the direction American is going. If Bernie takes office I don't think that is going to affect me one way or the other, because I'm not in that particular situation. I'm worried about other people. I'm worried about other people and their jobs. How they are going to support their families. That is why I became a supporter: for other people.
Tell me a little more about yourself. How old are you? What do you do?
I'm 37, I'm going to be turning 38, and I used to be IT support, but I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I can't drive. I can't work. Right now I'm filing for disability. So that's my situation right now, trying to control my seizures.
Are you married? Do you have a family?
I do. I'm married with two children, a boy and a girl.
Do you worry that it backfires when Bernie's supporters do things like this? Did it cross your mind that this was not going to reflect positively on Bernie and the campaign?
I contacted a superdelegate once when it was clear that Bernie won in a landslide. With the seizures, my memory is bad; I can't remember what state it was, but he clearly won and the superdelegate was going for Hillary against the popular vote, so I texted that if they would continue to vote against the people then that person should be removed as a superdelegate.
But do you think about the fact that Bernie will have to come out with a statement like he did Tuesday disavowing attacks like these?
Which I agree with. Personal attacks are bad, and I'm against that. I feel in some cases it does [backfire when people] are making personal threats and letting their emotions get away from them to the point of threatening. I think that backfires against him, and I did not mean to do that. What I meant to do was to text personal issues... for instance, the rules that she broke, and I suppose should be investigated. I think we have the right, as freedom of speech, to speak up about corruption, about stealing elections.
But again, I am against personal threats, and that one text I sent with her address was only about her having to answer to millions of people. It was not meant as a physical threat.
Would you support Hillary Clinton if Elizabeth Warren was her vice president?
No, it wouldn't make any difference for me. I don't trust Hillary enough, no matter what VP she has. Even if it was Bernie as VP, I don't trust Hillary.
I'm calling because I saw the text message that you sent Roberta Lange after the Nevada state Democratic convention on Saturday.
Let me just try to catch up with you. I'm kind of out of pocket this week 'cause I'm off. A little PTO, about to go to Mexico tomorrow. Quick question: You're telling me that a government agency, in some shape of or form, put my personal information on the Internet?
The Democratic Party isn't a government agency, it's a political party, but yes: they put up a selection of threatening messages that their chair received, and your number was included in them. Can you tell me a little about the headspace you were in when you sent this text message?
I actually found [Lange's phone number] publicly. I found it from another status from another friend of mine. I've seen it out there several times. So all I did was take it, put it on my phone, send one text message, took a screenshot of that text message, and I put it on Facebook in just one group in a manner that got everybody to actually do something.
You posted it to a Facebook group to encourage other people to text her?
Yeah. But I did it in a manner that showed people that they can be comfortable with their voice, and that they can do these things. We're allowed to do these things and be destructive, and the beauty of it is they now have put the ball back in my court by putting my personal number on the Internet…. All I did was take a picture of something on my phone, and I positioned it in a way that got people excited.
Did you intend your message as a threat?
Like, from a legal perspective… I didn't make it a direct threat. There's an implication, and I'm implying, right? I'm inferring that I could do something, but I was doing that to show — it was kind of just a, Hey, let's set the mood here and see if anything will happen.
You mean you were trying to start a dialogue with Roberta Lange? You were hoping she would write back?
I absolutely wish she had. I would love to do, like, public-facing interviews with people. I would love to do that. I get to work with CFOs and executives all day and night. I don't even sweat anymore. I don't feel that intensity, I don't get scared. I would absolutely love to interview her. It would be the best thing ever. If she had responded it would have been great because I would have asked: Why haven't you given a response to these people?
Do you worry that things you do reflect poorly on the campaign?
For me, obviously, that was sent in an emotional state. To call somebody criminal with no — I mean, I wasn't even there. All I did was [watch] 50 videos, [read] 100-plus testimonials, 40 interviews with people, people citing the rules that they broke. After you read and you materialize all of that and you aggregate it to a point that you can send somebody a text message, all I could think to say was that. I said that so that I could take a picture and put it on this group. I did it so I could make it go viral.
You thought it would go viral because there are so many subscribers to the Bernie forum where you posted it?
Yeah, in sending that, in no way, shape or form was I considering people getting worse than that. Now, I assumed that, within the bell-shaped curve, there is always an outlier. I just wanted to show people that they could be comfortable doing that.
Man, some of the people in that group are like, phew, a little sharp. They say some things in there like "Fuck Hillary!" and stuff like that, and it's just a bit much. That's the whole reason that I don't really [post] anymore…. If you go through some of the Bernie support forums on Facebeook, I've actually been advocating against what I've generated now that you've brought it to my attention.
Have you ever contacted anyone like this before?
I've never done anything in this way before in my entire life.
Can you tell me a little about what Bernie says that resonates with you?
What we've been taught is: "It used to be so much worse than it is now. Black people were slaves; women couldn't vote. So today it's better." But it's not better. The .001 percent are the only people that are able to live their lives.... We live in a society right now where people are living off the backs of others. And it's a scary thing.... I have a child. I have to bring a child into this, and I have to explain to him when he has questions — "Tyler, what did you do when this came around?"....
All I did was a social hack, a little tiny thing, but it caused a stir and sucks that you even think it was a negative thing. People actually came together. They did something — and it might have come across as negative. But they did something.... Something's changing. It's a revolution. There's going to outliers. I hate to be an outlier.
When did you get on board with his campaign?
When did I first become a real hardcore believer in Bernie? I have to admit the things that he's saying and that he's passionate about — like, I came from a family where we were born and raised in Louisiana, and nobody's ever made more than six figures in my entire family heritage, and I've never been able to travel outside the U.S. My entire life, I've just been broke — I got three part-time jobs, I put myself through college, I worked my ass off to live the American Dream, and I don't know anybody — I know super smart people — who have been able to accomplish what I've been able to accomplish in they system provided…. When did I really, really get involved? As of January 4th, I quit my corporate job and I went independent, and I have just been pushing the campaign since then.
You quit your job to campaign full-time for Bernie?
The idea was so I could give back and support the campaign. I feel like if I don't do something, I'm just going to, like, sit back with some cozy job at some software company while everybody else just gets screwed....
But I would say the true thing that really hooked me was when the bird landed on his podium. It was the first time that something political actually moved me, and it moved me to the point where I cried…. I'm a person that has a military dad, my parents got divorced, my grandmother had Parkinson's — I just had this very rough, challenging childhood where I was just kind of sad. It was such a sad childhood.... I was just a tough kid. I only cry in a funeral for family, and all of a sudden I'm 29, I see a man who I'm already just all about his campaign, and then the bird lands on his thing, and people's reaction — I connected. I connected to a moment with all those people about something just way different.
Do you regret the fact that Bernie had to come out and disavow actions like yours?
I regret and I apologize that [my text] was taken the wrong way, but I really just did it to see if I could get the group to back it. And it obviously did. I wanted to show people that are scared, dude, that they can have that dialogue, that they don't need to be scared. That if they see something, they should say something. I saw something....
Now [if] they say, vulgar, nasty, whatever they do, that's terrible. I don't want that. I think you should be really, really classy. Be classy. Just be super classy about everything and if that didn't happen, that sucks, and I do apologize.Thousands of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters clashed over delegates at the Nevada State Democratic Convention Saturday. Watch here.