WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump's paid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be American citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John Kerry's death by hanging and stated their readiness for a possible civil war, according to a review of their postings by The Associated Press.
The AP examined the social media and backgrounds of current and former campaign staffers who helped propel Trump through the primary elections. 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?"
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.
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.
Beth Myers, a Mitt Romney aide in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, said she stressed to employees that what they said and did, both inside and outside of social media, 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."
Myers was not commenting on any campaign specifically.
The AP found little questionable content in the ranks of Trump's top officials. State-level organizers posted jokes and criticism about race and religion.
Before being tapped in November as statewide director of coalitions, Craig Bachler of Bradenton, Florida, had posted jokes about Mexican accents superimposed over pictures of an overweight man wearing a sombrero. There is no record Bachler was paid for his work. After an AP reporter inquired about his posts, some material was removed from his account and a reporter's access was blocked.
Some posts demonstrated a fixation with black-on-white violence with claims that news of such crimes was being suppressed.
"How about this little white boy being murdered by a black man," grassroots organizer Annie Marie Delgado of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, wrote in December 2014. Delgado also shared a discredited fake photo of Kerry and Jane Fonda along with her own comment: "I say hang them!" She was paid $11,146 through April, according to campaign records.
Delgado told the AP she did not recall posting some of the items and would not have posted others if she had reviewed their content more closely.
Fear or dislike of Muslims was a recurring theme among some employees' personal accounts. On Facebook, Mark Kevin Lloyd of Lynchburg, Virginia, who has been paid $36,000 as Trump's field director in the state, shared a post June 30 calling Islam "a barbaric cult." He shared a meme June 16, four days after the Orlando nightclub mass shooting by a Muslim pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, saying people should be forced to eat bacon before they can purchase firearms.
Lloyd declined to talk to the AP without the Trump campaign's permission, citing his nondisclosure agreement with the campaign.
During her time with the campaign, Delgado deplored the appointment of a Muslim-American judge in New York.
"Step by step... this is how American culture will end," she wrote Feb. 27, expressing confidence the judge would impose Sharia law.
Scott Barrish, who earned $12,250 as Trump's political director for the Tampa Bay, Florida region, took his views beyond social media posts. In 2011, he drew local press coverage for writing to the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations saying he was wise to its plans to establish a totalitarian theocracy in the United states.
"This is us vs. you," wrote Barrish. "In the great words of the late President Ronald Reagan, 'I win, you lose!'"
Separately, Barrish tweeted in 2013 that he hoped America wasn't headed for civil war, but "if our freedoms must be defended against a tyrannical government, so be it."
"Those comments at that time were made by me and were my own personal view," Barrish said in a brief interview with AP. He said he stopped working for Trump's campaign after the Florida primary. "I don't want to detract anything from the campaign."
Associated Press writers Chad Day and Ted Bridis in Washington and Nick Riccardi in Denver contributed to this story.