Texas Republican congressional candidate Susan Wright is seeking help from federal law enforcement the day before her special election, after supporters reported receiving robocalls that accused her of being responsible for the death of her late husband.
Wright’s campaign reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice on Friday after discovering robocalls baselessly alleging that she had “murdered” her husband, the late GOP Rep. Ron Wright. Wright is running in the special election to succeed Wright, who passed away in February after being diagnosed with coronavirus.
Wright aides say they found out about the robocalls on Friday morning, a day before Saturday’s crowded all-party primary.
“This is illegal, immoral, and wrong. There’s not a sewer too deep that some politicians won’t plumb,” Wright said in a statement.
A female voice begins the minute-long robocall by saying that Wright “murdered her husband,” and that “she’s now running for Congress to cover it up.” The robocalls do not have a “paid-for” attribution saying who is paying for the attacks.
The robocall then claims that “according to confidential sources,” Wright “obtained a $1 million life insurance policy on the life of her husband…six months before his death.” It then says that Wright “tearfully confided in a nurse that she had purposely contracted the coronavirus.”
It adds that the hospital “has made a formal criminal referral to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and they have now opened a formal criminal inquiry into the matter,” before concluding: “It is clear that the voters of Texas’ 6th Congressional District deserve to know the truth about Susan Wright and her involvement in the death of her husband.”
Recipients of the calls say they are being made from a blocked number. In addition to reaching out to the FBI and the Department of Justice, the Wright campaign has been in touch with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department.
“When we heard reports of this criminal smear of a voicemail attacking Susan, we immediately referred the matter to law enforcement and started cooperating with authorities,” Matt Langston, a Wright campaign consultant, said in a statement. “Susan’s opponents are desperate and resorting to disgusting gutter politics because they know she’s the frontrunner.
Wright has received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who appeared with her on a conference call earlier this week held by the anti-tax Club for Growth, which is also supporting her. She is running in a Republican field that includes businessman Michael Wood, former Trump administration official Brian Harrison, and retired pro wrestler Dan Rodimer.
The race has been a relatively tame affair until now. The candidates have taken few direct shots at one another in their television ads, though the Club for Growth has been attacking GOP candidate Jake Ellzey, casting him as an anti-Trump Republican because he received a donation from Trump critic Bill Kristol.
Ellzey said he was shocked to hear about the robocall while on the campaign trail with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“This is horrible,” Ellzey said. “It’s unbelievable that anybody would stoop so low.”
Former Trump official Brian Harrison, another leading GOP candidate, also condemned the call.
“Voters are sick of candidates resorting to disgraceful negative attacks,” he said in a statement. “And I’m proud our campaign has focused on my conservative achievements and ability to defeat Biden’s radical agenda.”
Wright has been running as someone who could continue the legacy of her husband. The two have been active in local GOP politics in the community for decades, and Trump touted their strong relationship in the tele-town hall held with Wright and the Club for Growth on Thursday night.
“It’s a great honor to be with Susan,” Trump said. “It’s a great honor to help a friend of mine who thought so much, not only in terms of he loves Susan, but he respected Susan. He respected everything she said and that’s Ron Wright, who served us so well for a long period of time.”