Donald Trump'spaid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, mocked how Mexicans talk, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war, according to a review by The Associated Press of their postings.
The AP examined the social media feeds of more than 50 current and former campaign employees who helped propel Trump through the primary elections. The campaign has employed a mix of veteran political operatives and outsiders. Most come across as dedicated, enthusiastic partisans, but at least seven expressed views that were overtly racially charged, supportive of violent actions or broadly hostile to Muslims.
A graphic designer for Trump's advance team approvingly posted video of a black man eating fried chicken and criticizing fellow blacks for ignorance, irresponsibility and having too many children. A Trump field organizer in Virginia declared that Muslims were seeking to impose Sharia law in America and that "those who understand Islam for what it is are gearing up for the fight."
The AP's findings come at a time when Trump is showing new interest in appealing to minority voters, insisting he will be fair in dealing with the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally and explicitly pitching himself to African-Americans, saying "what do you have to lose?"
Since Trump declared his candidacy last summer, he has paid about 120 people on his campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Over the weekend, the campaign reported about 70 people drawing salaries, a number that did not include a few dozen more working as consultants. A slew of hires in early August were not yet reflected in Trump's filings.
The AP was able to review the accounts of only a minority of Trump staffers: Others set their accounts to private, some could not be found or identified with confidence as Trump campaign employees.
The AP also reviewed the public social media accounts of more than three dozen employees of Hillary Clinton's far larger campaign staff and found nothing as inflammatory. One staffer said Trump's style of speaking reminded him of a roommate who had taken too many hallucinogenic mushrooms. AP also reviewed images attached to more than 19,000 stolen internal emails from the Democratic National Committee for racially or religiously inflammatory memes, finding nothing of note.
The Clinton campaign declined to comment on its procedures for vetting staff. It employs more than 650 people, according to its FEC filings.
One month ago, the AP sent written questions to the Trump campaign with examples of the posts. The campaign has not commented, despite several requests since.
Veteran Republican campaign operatives said keeping an eye on staffers' social media postings has long been a standard practice.
"In vetting a prospective staffer, I'm not sure where the line would be for not hiring someone or simply asking them to take something down from social media, but there is a line," said Beth Myers, a former top Mitt Romney campaign aide.
During Myers' work for Mitt Romney in the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, she said, social media was newer, so indiscrete or embarrassing photos were more often concerns than inflammatory views. Even outside social media, she stressed to the campaigns' staffers that what they said and did would reflect on the candidate who employed them. "Don't put anything in an email that you wouldn't want on the front page of The New York Times," she recalled telling staff. "The same thing I told my kids, I told my staffers."
The AP found little questionable content in the ranks of Trump's top officials. The campaign's social media director, Dan Scavino, tweets prolifically but avoids discussing race and religion. Field organizers representing Trump's campaign around the country, however, have had no such reservations, either before or during their employment with the campaign. Their judgment matters beyond the campaign because the paid staff of winning presidential candidates often receives jobs in the next administration.
Before being tapped as statewide director of coalitions, Craig Bachler of Bradenton, Florida, posted jokes in 2015 about Mexican accents superimposed over pictures of an overweight man wearing a sombrero. Bachler was named by the campaign as official staff in November, though there is no record he has been paid for his work.
Bachler did not respond to a request for comment via Facebook or a message left at his office voicemail. After AP's inquiries, Bachler blocked access to an AP reporter, and his Facebook account — which included a photo of Bachler with Trump — was scrubbed to remove the offensive post.