Democratic lawmakers condemn violent, racist death threats left on Black lawmaker’s voicemail

By: - June 11, 2021 8:12 am

Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson | House Democrats photo

An obscenity-laced, racist voicemail left on the House office voicemail for a Black state representative is being investigated by law enforcement, according to a press release from the House Democratic Caucus Wednesday. 

“N****** die. The whole world will be rejoicing. Sleep well,” the woman said in a more than three-minute voice message Monday to state Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson (D-Detroit). 

The female caller identifies herself and refers to Johnson, who is Black, as a “babydoll, n***** lip b****.” In the voicemail, the caller discusses a point system for leading Black women who are killed. The caller says that she is “not a violent person, but I think I could slit your throat in a minute.”

The audio was released by Johnson on her personal Facebook page on Tuesday. 

“This is nothing new. This is the same hate and violence Black Americans have faced for generations,” Johnson said. “This is the same sexist vitriol endured by women in power throughout history. These are the same manipulative tactics used by perpetrators of domestic violence to belittle victims into submission. This is not the first time domestic terrorists have tried to silence me with similar threats, but I will not be silenced. How dare they think I will take this lying down. Black women have fought this fight for too long. We’re tired from this fight, but we will not take this lying down.”

This is not the first time Johnson has been targeted with racist and threatening voice messages. She became a lightning rod late last year after she challenged President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Guilliani and others during a House Oversight Committee hearing on allegations of voting irregularities in the 2020 election. Those allegations have all been rejected as part of what has been dubbed the “big lie.” 

Johnson was immediately subjected to a torrent of racist threats after video of the hearing went viral. She has received dozens of threatening calls. Even as she was handling the initial flood of threats, one of her Facebook Live videos was selectively edited and distributed dubbing her a “domestic terrorist.” It was fed by rightwing blogs, Parler and other social media. House leadership removed her from her committee assignments. Johnson called the rightwing attack and the subsequent action by former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) a “digital lynching.”

Accused Jan. 7 Capitol bomb threat caller Michael Varrone was on law enforcement’s radar well before he caused a shutdown of the state Capitol. He had called in a death threat to the voicemail of State Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) on Dec. 12. That voicemail was forwarded by the House Sergeant-at-Arms to the Michigan State Police on Dec. 15. It was not investigated by MSP until after Varrone allegedly called the state switchboard and said there was a bomb in the Capitol. 

House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio) condemned the most recent voicemail threat in a joint statement with Johnson. 

“This is another example of what not just Black elected officials, but Black Americans have faced throughout our history,” said Lasinski. “The recent racist rhetoric of national leaders has emboldened hateful bigots to come out from under their hoods and make threats like this in broad daylight. Domestic terrorists are making their racist voices heard, so it is up to us to speak louder. Silence is acceptance. We need to send a clear message that hate has no home here and we will not stand for these threats and political intimidation of Black members, specifically Black female members. A threat against one of us is a threat against all of us.”

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Todd A. Heywood
Todd A. Heywood

Todd Heywood is an award-winning journalist with over 30 years of experience. He's worked in print, online, radio and television. His reporting has been cited by the U.S. House of Representatives as well as in the United Nations reports on HIV. He's an avid vintage Star Wars collector and lives in Lansing with his three dogs.