Houston, we have a Trump problem—no, not that one.
Amid tapes of Trump’s past sexual exploits and words bouncing around for the past week like a bad ’80s pinball machine, I was contacted by my friend Robin Biro with a story about his experiences as a Democratic TV pundit. As a frequent on-air political commentator for CNN, Fox News and RT America, he’s been out front as a Trump critic and vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton for president.
You’ve likely seen the violence and conflict that have broken out at Trump rallies. You’ve also heard the candidate himself offer to pay the legal fees of rally attendees if they were to take matters in to their own hands. He’s also insinuated that “2nd Amendment people” could or should cause harm to Former Sec. Clinton. This is the climate in which this post is offered.
Back to Robin Biro: he appears on TV, discusses “point counterpoint” issues with his colleagues, offers his viewpoints and goes home. All good, right?
Um, no not exactly. Robin—an Army Ranger, longtime Democratic operative and gay man—has experienced an outlandish number of death threats, homophobic slurs and other incitements of violence hurled at him. I asked him to give us a first-person account of his experiences—with pull quotes and screen grabs of some of the most notorious commenters. This, in my view, should be part of the conversation as we weigh our candidates for president.
Important note: I carefully considered the ramifications of giving this negative, hateful speech air time, and elevating these types of anonymous comments or giving them any sort of credibility. I elected to have Robin give you the story in his own words, so that folks could better understand the underbelly of the Donald Trump campaign. His story follows below. — Will Pollock
I was initially contacted via my LinkedIn profile to appear as a TV pundit. They were interested in my range of experience as former Obama campaign director in 2008 and being a Ranger vet based in Atlanta. To prepare for these I started practicing with the app Periscope, which is a lot like Facebook Live—but to an international audience of more than just your friends.
That’s where I first got attacked by “Alt-right” Trump supporters.
Initially I would go onto their broadcasts and give commentary—just campaign strategy talking points, polls, the type stuff that a pundit would talk about. They loved me, but they didn’t immediately know that I was a Dem, much less a Hillary supporter. I was just giving facts, strategy, data, etc., without opinions; inarguable-type stuff, and it made sense.
They’d respond with things like “I can’t wait until Hillary’s Syrian refugees start killing her voters” and other hateful stuff.
‘YOUR MOTHER SHOULD’VE BEEN FORCED TO HAVE AN ABORTION’
And that’s where things went crazy. They assumed since I wasn’t being a combative “libtard” that I was one of them, and then I started doing my own broadcasts and explained that while I may have some similar views to them (for example I don’t want to take all guns away; I’m fiscally responsible; those types of common-sense reforms), I couldn’t support Trump as a gay man because of Pence specifically, who behind the “Religious Freedom” law.
I also very respectfully talked about the Supreme Court, and how hard we fought for marriage quality and that “The Donald” had said that he would nominate SCOTUS justices who would roll back Marriage Equality.
Well that started an attack campaign by the “Alt Right,” who did memes of me (I was excited actually), and started this bizarre rumor/conspiracy that I was trying to defraud one of the other broadcasters. Where they got this from I had no idea, but that’s where the death threats started. They lied and said that there was a fake FBI investigation into me for said fraud, and that the FBI was giving them daily updates of whom to block from Periscope, and the “sheeple” followed. The list grew daily and I didn’t give it any credence. I was frankly too busy to engage in their silliness, and it was blatantly not true / made up, so I went about my business.
Initiating a pretend FBI investigation could have compromised my government top-secret security clearance (I’ve transitioned to the reserves, but I’m still a drilling soldier), could have cost me my state professional licenses. — Robin Biro
Apparently the story kept brewing in the background, and the Trump supporters were saying that they were “investigating me” and trying to figure out how to get me. One even said “go after Biro, he has money.” It was just pure silliness—as though the FBI would actually investigate me merely because I was a Clinton supporter.
So onto Fox News. I started giving national political commentary that network and its sister net, Fox Business—as well as RT America, and CNN. That’s where I started getting the daily death threats. My approach has always been to present facts, polls, campaign strategy and not opinions nor hyperbole. But they clearly don’t like the truth.
I’m completely unafraid; most of these people look like angry mall-walkers. As a veteran Army Ranger I definitely can defend myself. It’s part of the reason I got selected for this job. — Robin Biro
I had one man do a broadcast of his own where he was literally screaming saying “there’s no faggot Rangers,” “there’s no faggot Marines,” there’s “no faggot firefighters”—and mocked what it would be like in his mind to have gay Servicemembers and first responders.
‘THERE’S NO FAGGOT RANGERS, NO FAGGOT MARINES,
NO FAGGOT FIREFIGHTERS’
There have also been are tons of allegations of “stolen valor” levied against me—which occur just about daily. They LOVE to say that I’ve never served in the military a day in my life. I try to not look at the comments on the YouTube clips that Fox posts specifically; stuff like “there’s no way he was ever a ranger, he sounds gay” or “he doesn’t have the face of a ranger” so on and so forth. One message that said that I should have died on the battlefield and it’s too bad that I didn’t get blown up, and that my parents should have aborted me (hey, at least they believe in a woman’s right to choose I guess), to which I responded “bless your heart.”
Aside from that I’ve gotten things like “man I want to punch that guy in the face” or “I will beat you to a bloody pulp if I ever see you.” But I’m completely unafraid; most of these people look like angry mall-walkers, and trust me as a veteran Army Ranger I definitely can defend myself, which is part of the reason I got selected for this job.
I had supporters at a Trump rally yell “are you afraid boy? cause you should be.” I was wearing a Stonewall Inn Shirt that said “gay rights are human rights”—to which I turned to him, noticed his veteran hat, thanked him for his service and then pointed to my Ranger hat and said “nah, completely unafraid, with all due respect, sir. why would I be afraid?”
Deplorable? Absolutely. Initiating a pretend FBI investigation could have compromised my government top-secret security clearance (I’ve transitioned to Army Reserves, but I’m still a drilling soldier), could have cost me my state professional licenses—not to mention the now-daily death threats.
I just laugh it off and say to myself, “You must be doing something right.” ❏
Robin Biro is a commercial real estate consultant, U.S. Army Ranger, national political commentator, delegate-at-large for Hillary Clinton 2016 and former Obama ’08 campaign field director. Follow him (but be respectful and nice!) on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Periscope.
Here’s a political palette cleanse and a Cure Your Crankies moment. This is how you speak to someone with different political views, and an opposing candidate.
Will Pollock is an Atlanta-based freelance multimedia journalist focusing on retail, real estate, travel, politics and human interest. He is the author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.
Editor’s note: Do you have a story, tip or any other news nugget to share? Send a confidential e-mail and let’s chat about it. Always welcome guest bloggers with something important to say.