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Hudson police investigating possible phone 'harassment' of high-profile Mitt Romney supporter
Jack Gilchrist of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating of Hudson appears in this screen grab from a Mitt Romney television ad accusing President Barack Obama of “demonizing” small business owners. (YouTube)
MANCHESTER -- The New Hampshire businessman who appears in a Mitt Romney television ad accusing President Barack Obama of “demonizing” small business owners has gone to his local police after receiving two “harassing” telephone calls and, he says, hundreds of nasty emails.
“It's frightening to me,” said Jack Gilchrist of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating of Hudson, who also said Thursday he received hundreds of supportive emails as well.
Gilchrist said that while “there was no specific threat, to me, it's harassment.”
Capt. Bill Avery of the Hudson Police Department confirmed that an officer took “an investigative report of harassment” from Gilchrist on Wednesday.
“And,” said Avery, “we will investigate.”
The latest development ratcheted up the war of words between the Romney and Obama campaigns over the role of government in helping businesses.
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said the Obama campaign's “attacks” on Gilchrist and his business prompted the telephone calls and emails.
“This is the same kind of Chicago-style politics that the Obama political machine has repeatedly used to push the President's liberal agenda and intimidate anybody who disagrees with his failed policies,” said Williams.
But both Williams and Gilchrist stopped short of accusing the Obama camp of orchestrating the calls.
An Obama campaign official said, “Jack Gilchrist and small business owners across the country are who the President has been working for every day -- cutting taxes for small businesses 18 times and making key investments in infrastructure to help their businesses hire and grow.
“No one should be attacking hardworking small business owners.” said the Obama official.
Gilchrist is featured in Romney television and web ads accusing Obama of “demonizing” him and small business owners by saying earlier this month that “somebody along the line gave you some help,” and, “If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
“My father's hands didn't build this company?” Gilchrist asks in the television ad. “My hands didn't build this company? Through hard work and a little bit of luck, we built this business. Why are you (Obama) demonizing us for it?”
Gilchrist said the “harassing” telephone calls and negative emails started arriving soon after UnionLeader.com posted a report on Monday that said while he has had a successful business for many years, he received some government assistance along the way.
UnionLeader.com reported Gilchrist received the proceeds of tax-exempt bonds made possible by the federal government in 1999, which allowed him to expand.
Gilchrist also said in the report that in the 1980s, he received a loan of “somewhere south of” $500,000 through the U.S. Small Business Administration. He also received some assistance from a federally-funded agency and a few defense-related contracts, he said.
Obama campaign officials, including top spokesman Lis Smith and deputy national campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, posted the story on Twitter. The campaign has a new ad in which Obama says his original words about businesses getting help were taken out of context by the Romney campaign.
Williams said that by posting the story, the Obama camp was attacking Gilchrist.
Gilchrist said Thursday that following the UnionLeader.com report, he received “about 300 of each,” positive and negative comments via email.
Some of the negative email were blunt -- calling him a “hypocrite,” a “liar” and “ignorant,” for instance.
But two profanity-laced telephone calls prompted Gilchrist to call the Hudson police.
One call came directly to his voice mail, while another went to the voice mail at the home of what Gilchrist called “a professional associate.”
Gilchrist emailed what he said were the voice mails to UnionLeader.com on Thursday.
One called him a “vile piece of (expletive),” among other things, and demanded he call Obama to apologize.
The caller was identified by Gilchrist through his caller ID. The man called from area code 630, which is the Chicago area. He has posted anti-Republican and anti-conservative messages on Twitter in the past, including a 2009 posts that said, “GOP needs to be eliminated,” and, “I am prepared to kill people. Let the tea bagers fire the first shot and I will pile up the bodies of the traitors.”
The other caller, to Gilchrist's associate, names Gilchrist and calls him “a (expletive) liar,” a “(expletive) Republican piece of (expletive),” and told him to “burn in hell.”
Gilchrist said that between the emails and the calls, “I have to believe that this is an orchestrated effort. There are quite a few coincidences.”
He said the callers “don't understand that the $800,000 was a municipal bond. I paid it back.
“I'm a small businessman who spoke his mind and am further demonized for it,” said Gilchrist. “I am an American, I'm a small business man, I pay my taxes, I repaid all the debt and always have and always will.
“These guys aren't coming up with this on their own,” he said. “They're getting ginned up. It certainly seems like an orchestrated event.
“I don't want to be paranoid. I don't want to cower to cowards but I really think it is a dark day for our country when this stuff goes on,” Gilchrist said. “It's so extreme and one of my attractions to Governor Romney is that he is not an extremist.”
Gilchrist said he will not ask the Romney campaign to pull the ad featuring him.
“I feel the First Amendment is in play here,” he said.
Williams of the Romney campaign said, “First, President Obama demeaned small-business owners by telling them that they 'didn't build' their companies. Now the Obama campaign is attacking business owner Jack Gilchrist for disagreeing with these arrogant comments.
“Jack Gilchrist did something that Barack Obama has never done,” Williams said. “He built a business, created jobs, and put people to work. President Obama and his campaign should be ashamed of their attempts to diminish the hard work of small-business owners, and they should immediately apologize to Mr. Gilchrist for their reckless conduct.”
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley posted on Twitter Thursday night: "Shame on attack dog (Ryan Williams) for using (the) poor guy in first place. He didn't deserve being used then or threatened now."
Williams said, “This is the latest incident in a troubling pattern of behavior from the Obama campaign.”
He pointed out a recent column in the Wall Street Journal alleging that an Idaho businessman who contributed to a group supporting Romney has been audited by the IRS and the Department of Labor. He said the donor was “intimidated.”
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John DiStaso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jdistaso.
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