Rick Tyler's campaign sign off Highway 411 in Polk County.
Rick Tyler's campaign sign off Highway 64 near Benton.
POLK COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -
UPDATE: A campaign sign in Polk County is stirring up a lot of controversy.
The signs were located off Highway 411 near Benton, and said "Make America White Again." They were posted by Rick Tyler, an independent candidate in the race for Tennessee's 3rd congressional district seat currently held by Chuck Fleischmann.
Another billboard depicted the White House ringed with Confederate flags, with the statement "I Have a Dream" a takeoff from the famous Martin Luther King Jr. speech.
Tyler told Channel 3 he has no hatred in his heart for "people of color." He says the sign's message is that America should go back to a "1960s, Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver time when there were no break-ins; no violent crime; no mass immigration."
Several Channel 3 viewers have called or sent messages to our newsroom, saying the signs do not reflect the feelings of the entire county and that they want them down.
Tyler said, "I respect their right to have an opinion. I believe the majority of the people in the county like it."
"I saw people taking pictures beside it right after I posted it," added Tyler.
Channel 3 asked Tyler if he feared for his safety or backlash from the campaign sign. He said, "I don't fear it. I welcome it, and I will respond with the application of truth." Tyler said on Wednesday he had been receiving death threats.
Tyler posted a second sign on Highway 64 with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" quote written over a White House surrounded by Confederate Flags.
The sign was taken down less than 12 hours after being put up, but not by Tyler.
Even so, that was enough time to get the public's attention and cause some controversy.
The owner of the billboard will not confirm if or why his company removed the signage. Tyler wants it to be put back up, he said he paid for the signs to be there until after the November election.
"If I could I'd have hundreds of these billboards up across the 3rd District," he said.
Party officials and elected officials are speaking out against the signs.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes said in a statement, "There's no room for this type of hateful display in our political discourse. Racism should be rejected in all its heinous forms in the Third Congressional District and around the country."
Today, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann also released a statement regarding the billboards.
“I totally and unequivocally condemn the billboard and Mr. Tyler’s message and will vigorously fight any form of racism in the 3rd district of Tennessee or anywhere else in the nation,” said Fleischmann.
Fleischmann is facing Allan Levene and Geoffery Suhmer Smith for the GOP nomination.
Michael Friedman, George Ryan Love and Melody Shekari are vying for the Democratic nomination.
Tyler is running as an independent candidate along with Topher Kersting and Cassandra Mitchell.
Voters will head to the polls for Tennessee's primary elections on August 4.