A white supremacist living in Sandpoint appears to be responsible for another spate of vitriolic automated phone calls, this time targeting Spokane-area residents in response to criticism of a Spokane Transit Authority executive.
The robocalls are similar to ones received last month in California and state they are “paid for by TheRoadToPower.com,” a video podcasting site run by Scott D. Rhodes, of Sandpoint. They offer a defense of STA’s human resources director, Nancy Williams, who was accused this week of making racist comments on Facebook.
Leaders of the STA workers union demanded that Williams resign or lose her job after she shared a viral video of a mentally ill white man being attacked by four young African-Americans in Chicago in January 2017. The union’s president, Thomas Leighty, said Friday the actions of the assailants are “indefensible,” yet he maintained that Williams’ comment calling them “animals” was clearly racist. Williams also appeared to condone another woman’s comment referring to the assailants as “primates” and to former President Barack Obama as a “creature.”
The 70-second robocall message, which has the feel of a radio ad, features the voices of a man and a woman. The man calls Leighty “an unbalanced homosexual” and claims Williams is under attack by an “army of PC radicals.” He also admonishes listeners to “end the idea that Negroes can’t be criticized.” The woman concludes the message with an ambiguous threat: “Tell the STA that Nancy Williams did nothing wrong, and warn them: We are watching.”
Leighty said Friday he was “extremely disappointed and disgusted” by the message.
Rhodes, 49, who has also used the surname Platek, appears to have moved to Sandpoint from San Francisco in 2015, the same year hateful robocalls targeted Sandpoint’s liberal mayor, Shelby Rognstad, during his election campaign.
Late last year, police identified Rhodes as the man who distributed racist CDs in the parking lot of Sandpoint High School. He also was suspected of harassing at least one Sandpoint resident, and he captured the interest of police in Alexandria, Virginia, after city leaders there received threatening, anti-Semitic calls from a phone number tied to him and an Idaho-registered company.
Last month, The Spokesman-Review and the Sandpoint Reader identified Rhodes as the man featured in videos on the “Road to Power” website after robocalls were received in several California cities. One of those messages referred to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein as a “traitorous Jew,” and another urged Californians to “relocate to North Idaho, where very white is very right.”
At the time, an account using the “Road to Power” name posted on Gab, a social media website popular among white supremacists, boasting that the messages had been delivered to more than 350,000 Californians.
It’s unclear how many people in the Spokane area have received the robocalls. The Spokesman-Review confirmed the message about Williams was received Thursday by at least one local business and one Spokane County employee, who shared a recording. The California and Spokane robocalls came from the same number, which has a San Francisco area code and appears to belong to a media and communications company called j2 Global Inc.
In each episode of his podcast, Rhodes excitedly announces that he’s broadcasting from “very white, very racist North Idaho.” He is seated at a desk in front of a microphone, laying out a sinister vision for a white America while grotesque caricatures of Jews and other minorities appear on the screen behind him. He has used the platform to attack politicians, celebrities and journalists, including a Spokesman-Review reporter.
In a statement Friday, STA officials said little about the robocalls but stressed that the agency has an “unwavering commitment to diversity and nondiscrimination in each and every level of the organization.”
An STA spokesman shared a letter to Leighty, the workers union president, signed by STA board chairman Kevin Freeman, who is also the mayor of Millwood. In it, Freeman chastised Leighty for raising concerns about Williams’ comments in a “dramatic press conference” on Tuesday, rather than filing a formal complaint.
Leighty previously said the union didn’t approach STA’s chief executive, Susan Meyer, with the accusations because “it is well-known that Susan and Nancy are friends in addition to colleagues.”
Freeman’s letter states that “STA is a source of pride to this community and we can only uphold the expectations of the community by ensuring we provide an environment where everyone is treated equally, with dignity, and with full recognition of the rights afforded to them by our policies and procedures.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed on June 16, 2018. A previous version misstated the relationship between Nancy Williams and a woman she interacted with on Facebook.