FCC Inks $10M Fine For Racist Political Robocaller

(January 15, 2021, 8:40 PM EST) -- After sending out thousands of racist robocalls in an attempt to sway public opinion against Black and Jewish political candidates, an Idaho white supremacist is being hit with nearly $10 million in fines from the Federal Communications Commission.

The commission handed down its final decision, called a forfeiture order, Thursday. It orders Scott Rhodes, the neo-Nazi podcaster behind the calls, to pony up $9.9 million as recompense for the thousands of attack calls he sent out from spoofed numbers in 2018.

Rhodes doesn't deny making the calls, according to the agency, only that he didn't make them "as alleged."

"Other than Rhodes's bare assertion that he did not make the calls 'as alleged' in the notice, there is no evidence to support the claim that someone other than Rhodes originated the calls or selected the caller ID," the agency said.

Outgoing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the calls were not only illegal but that Rhodes took the imposition of a robocall "to new levels of egregiousness."

Originally, the FCC proposed a fine of almost $13 million but Rhodes managed to convince the commission to knock that down by nearly $3 million by showing he had permission to use one of the numbers he was calling from.

Since some of the calls — specifically, 1,496 calls that targeted California voters and urged them to "rid America of traitorous Jews like Dianne Feinstein" — weren't spoofed, the commission found that a roughly $3 million reduction was necessary.

Black candidates including Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, who ran for governor in Georgia and senator in Florida that year, respectively, were also targeted by the racist calls.

More than 500 calls purporting to be from "magical Negro" Oprah Winfrey were made to people in Georgia, disparaging Abrams in similar terms. In another set of calls, a man speaking in a racist mimicry of a Black dialect pretended to be Gillum making a campaign call.

Other attack calls were xenophobic, aimed at communities where an undocumented immigrant had been charged with the murder of a young white woman in a case that was heavily politicized by President Donald Trump.

Rhodes also attempted to influence the jury in the murder trial of James Fields, according to the commission.

Fields was eventually convicted of the murder of Heather Heyer, an anti-racism protestor he struck with his car in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but the jury had to be instructed to ignore any calls they may receive from Rhodes, the FCC said.

Rhodes could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

--Additional reporting by Kelcee Griffis. Editing by Jay Jackson Jr.

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