WASHINGTON ― Sometime in the near future, the 2016 presidential race will be retold in hefty books by the winning operatives, the losing strategists and some of the sharp campaign embeds. They will dish fly-on-the-wall details about President-Elect Donald Trump’s reaction to the airing of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape and Hillary Clinton’s bout with pneumonia. Perhaps even more will be revealed about Anthony Weiner’s seedy exploits on the internet.
But it’s not just the operatives who have a story to tell. The voters do, too. They were on the receiving end of the onslaught of attack ads and obsessive news coverage of every Trump tweet and rally. Voters living in battleground states had to endure near-constant noise from the campaigns, whether over the airwaves or through their internet routers.
Their stories may never end up in history books. But they did submit their own narratives in the form of complaints to the Federal Communications Commission. The Huffington Post obtained the more than 800 election-related complaints through a Freedom of Information Act request and sifted through them. These living room dispatches are candid, emotional and, at times, maddening ― just like the election itself.
My friend signed me up to receive emails from Trump’s campaign as a joke. We had a laugh and unsubscribed. But ever since I’ve still been receiving emails from his campaign. I’ve just today unsubscribed again for the sixth time!
FCC complaint from Brooklyn, New York, Aug. 24, 2016
The complaints came from small towns in swing states like Florida and Ohio, and from places like Utah that were not used to much attention during presidential campaigns until this year. Some raged for just a sentence or two. Others riffed for several paragraphs, and many complaints were flecked with exclamation points and words in all-caps.
They had the tone of the battle-weary and the shell-shocked. They mourned a simpler time when the news didn’t feature silver-haired anchormen dropping the word “pussy” at the top of their newscasts. They condemned Clinton for running vulgar ads that quoted her opponent’s vulgar speech. You sense paranoia taking hold. In two separate complaints, voters questioned whether late night talk shows hosted by the likes of Charlie Rose and Stephen Colbert were somehow rigged.
But mostly, Americans seemed overwhelmed by their inability to escape the presidential race. Trump, Clinton and their friendly super PACs, had invaded their homes through television ads and robocalls, wormed their way into their text messages and spammed their email accounts. There was no way to just hit “unsubscribe” to all of it.
All people could do was type up a quick rant and send it to the FCC. Below are just some of the dispatches. A few contain language that some readers may find, well, vulgar.
Hillary Clinton Is The Real Vulgarian
“I think it’s extremely offensive to air the anti-Trump commercial (this is not a political issue), talking about blood and guts, flat-chested women, and using the word ‘fuck’ at the end of the commercial. It is aired on public TV! I have seen it on various channels, BOTH cable and regular channels. This is vile and wrong, and people (no matter what age) do not need to be exposed to such language and imagery. Thank you.”
– Tarpon Springs, Florida, May 25, 2016
“Trump commercial mouthing F-bombs. The grandkids are snickering. I’m NOT amused.”
– Mount Clemens, Michigan, Sept. 1, 2016
“The TV ads they are running against Trump are so inappropriate and disgusting. They are worse than anything Trump may have said.”
– Ellicott, Maryland, April 25, 2016
Heinous Misbehavior By The Press
“Chris Matthews, representing MSNBC asked Donald Trump an inappropriate question in a bullying and badgering way. He introduced the idea of punishment for abortion to deliberately arouse controversy where none existed previously to undermine and destroy a candidate. He put Donald Trump and his supporters and the general public at risk by inciting violence. Could you please protect the public by enforcing your rules against heinous misbehavior by the press? Thank you.”
– Kettering, Ohio, March 31, 2016
“I cannot have a TV on in my house anymore, even at 9 am on a Sunday because the ‘journalist’ Chuck Todd on NBC cannot stop from using vulgar terms and salacious speech, he cannot call them accusations or stay on topics like the National Debt and is so dead set on being obsessed with sexual topics, that I cannot have children in the room.”
– Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 16, 2016
“CNN news kept repeating the footage of Mr. Trump saying the word ‘pussy’ many times. It was early in the day when I heard the word pussy, and all throughout the day that was all I could think about…”
– Doral, Florida, Oct. 13, 2016.
White Nationalist Demands Equal Time
“Entercom inc refuses to allow White Nationalists at least an hour every night during talk radio prime time. The Republicans and Democrats have many shows dedicated to them, all day long, on WILK. None of the areas radio stations will allow us to broadcast our message and interact with listeners. We have a lot of Trump supporters and it is wrong for the Republican talk radio shows to just wrap us up in their group. Our reasons for supporting Trump are different than what the republican talk radio people claim. We deserve our own hour on either WILK or public radio but neither will let us on. We want our own radio show. Respectfully, [Name withheld]”
– Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Sept. 16, 2016
White Supremacists Discover The Robocall
“I received a call today from 213 ― which showed as ‘California.’ They left a very racially offensive message on my answering machine regarding supporting Donald Trump. The message indicated that this call was not supported by Donald Trump himself. However, the message was not nice and I found it to be very offensive. I Googled the phone number and found it to be from a White Supremacist Group. How do they have my number and how can they call me??”
– Duluth, Minnesota, Feb. 25, 2016
Donald Trump keeps calling me telling me to go to his website and then plays Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley.
FCC complaint from McKinney, Texas, Oct. 26, 2016
‘This Election Can’t End Fast Enough’
“I keep getting robocalls from 646―. It does not give me an option to remove myself. Last night it called me at 11 pm. All it says it’s for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and tells me to vote for him to get rid of all the immigrants that are destroying this country. I just want the calls to stop.”
– Bothell, Washington, March 13, 2016
“As of 7:50 pm (PDT) we have received eleven Robocalls from Donald Trump at approximately 15 minute intervals.”
– Ashland, Oregon, June 15, 2016
“I received a robo call from 941―- where after pressing 1 to speak to someone I received a male on the phone. After stating I was on the Do Not Call list he started swearing at me calling me a ‘bitch,’ a ‘snitch’ and telling me that I was ‘beat up in high school’ and that I hated Trump. When I asked to speak to his manager he said that his manager was ‘busy jacking off.’”
– Clearwater, Minnesota, April 27, 2016
“I never signed up for PreserveFreedom.org in the first place and now [they] keep sending me emails. When I try to unsubscribe, it sends me to a dead link. This is especially irritating because I REALLY DON’T LIKE DONALD TRUMP, and don’t want to get stupid emails telling me how great he is. Please help, this election can’t end fast enough.”
– Mount Airy, Maryland, Sept. 29, 2016
“Caller goes silent and says ‘Donald Trump,’ then hangs up.”
– Wheeling, Illinois, Aug. 8, 2016
“Donald Trump keeps calling me telling me to go to his website and then plays Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley.”
– McKinney, Texas, Oct. 26, 2016
“Have received two robo calls from Donald Trump. The first one I hung up on. The second I tried to stay on the line to get them to stop calling and they hung up on me. The second call was threatening saying that Clinton and Obama were going to open the prisons and jails, let everyone out, and our safety was at risk, our community, and home. He was almost yelling over the phone. It was frightening and I was left shaking and crying.”
– San Diego, California, Aug. 22, 2016
Don’t Joke Around With The Trump Train
“My colleagues at work submitted my email to the Donald Trump presidential campaign as a joke. I have emailed multiple times to have them, as well as the RNC, to remove my email address from their lists, and despite multiple emails, I continue to receive emails. This is bordering on harassment … Also, when I clicked the link to ‘unsubscribe’ it tells me the address provided by the link, isn’t real.”
– Chicago, Illinois, Aug. 11, 2016
“Got an auto call from this number saying I had won a cruise. I hung up right away and blocked the number. I am pretty sure that my number is being pulled from a Donald Trump email list (I signed up to attend a rally as a joke; did not go; probably all around worst decision of my life) as since then I have received spam texts and phone calls. I’ve had the same cell number for a decade and never had problems before Trump.”
– Carrboro, North Carolina, June 30, 2016
“My friend signed me up to receive emails from Trump’s campaign as a joke. We had a laugh and unsubscribed. But ever since I’ve still been receiving emails from his campaign. I’ve just today unsubscribed again for the sixth time!”
– Brooklyn, New York, Aug. 24, 2016
Not Falling For It
“I keep getting phone calls from the same number telling me that I’ve won a free cruise. They ask questions about Donald Trump, security systems, and credit card balances. (Interest rate) there is no option to remove from call list, there is no way to speak to someone. These calls are frequent and annoying.”
– Lafayette, Louisiana, May 27, 2016
“This caller, who he said his name was ‘John Kennedy’ (according to my records, from Kingston, Jamaica) said he was from the Publisher’s Clearing House, and that I won $850,000. He continued asking me questions, all of which I either avoided or gave false information. He stated the Donald Trump was involved in the delivery of my money etc.”
– Erie, Pennsylvania, March 5, 2015
This Election Makes Me Paranoid
“I have attached pictures of Neil Cavuto on FOX News the day before the 11/10/15 Republican Debate. Neil Cavuto odd looks somewhat like Donald Trump, like he and Donald are related. I got the impression that he and FOX News wanted to influence people to support Mr. Trump.”
– Mesa, Arizona, Dec. 2, 2015
“MTV has aired a clip of Donald Trump and immediately afterward Miley Cyrus appears with both middle fingers up. It is clear that they are putting the clips back to back to relay a message.”
– Bel Air, Maryland, Aug. 14, 2015
“All pro-Hillary emails go into inbox. All pro-Trump emails go into spam. Why? How dare they censor my mail?”
– Staten Island, New York, July 22, 2016
“I saw subliminal advertising on ABC, channel 7, Los Angeles, news broadcast today about 8:30 AM. It was ‘TRUMP’ flashed across the screen in a box during a report of a fire. The screen showed a helicopter view of the extensive brush fire. My husband who was also watching did not see it. It was so fast that he must have blinked when the word appeared in the screen.”
– Mission Viejo, California, July 23, 2016
Where Are The Pro-Trump People?
“New Match Game on ABC (6-26-2016) question on a panel of six pro-Hillary celebrities. Answers might be biased. No Pro Trump panelists. No anti-Hillary questions about integrity.”
– Midland, Texas, June 27, 2016
“Every night Charlie Rose has ALL ANTI-TRUMP guests on his show with RARE to NO PRO-Trump guests! It is disgusting!”
– Staten Island, New York, Sept. 27, 2016
The Boos Are Fake, The Laughter Can’t Be Real
“Here is a clear case in point where NBC and other large media outlets put in a title and fake Boos for Donald Trump. Please see link here which shows the real video of what happened, then click on the other three to see how the media is lying about it…”
– Irvine, California, Sept. 27, 2015
“I can only address the CBS late-night shows as I do not watch any of the others. Steven Colbert and James [Corden] each opens their show with a stand-up monologue. In recent weeks, both have continuously attacked Donald Trump. I am unable to ascertain whether the laughter is truly that loud or if it is electronically enhanced. I suspect the latter to be the case.”
– Marietta, Georgia, Aug. 19, 2016
Stephen Colbert Lacks Seriousness
“In an interview between Steven Colbert and Sean Penn Tuesday, September 27. 2016 during the Late Show on channel 62 in Detroit during 11:30 pm – 12:23 am show, the two engaged in a discourse referring to Presidential Candidate Donald Trump ‘masturbating’ with ‘small hands’ and a ‘small penis.’ This discourse is obscene pursuant to the ‘three prong test’ and clearly lacks SERIOUS political content.”
– Livonia, Michigan, Sept. 28 2016
Weeks Later, The Election Won’t Stop
“Consumer was hit with a threatening phone call on the 19th. The consumer was verbally harassed because the call said ‘you voted for Donald Trump and now you will be killed.’”
– Surprise, Arizona, Nov. 21, 2016