A Florida Republican candidate who called for President Obama to be hanged for treason in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day tweet says that a visit from the Secret Service and backlash from state Republicans has not deterred him from running for office or softening his rhetoric.
Joshua Black, who is running for a Florida state House seat this year, said in a tweet Tuesday that representatives from the Secret Service interviewed him. “Even the Secret Service does not believe that I threatened the President,” he tweeted later.
A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service confirmed to msnbc that agents interviewed Black.
“Any time we receive information we have to make an assessment on things like veracity and/or urgency while also considering context and dangerousness,” Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said in a written statement.
He added: “People have the right to free speech. We also have the right and an obligation to determine a person’s intent when they say something. The appropriate follow up will be conducted in this matter.”
After receiving a barrage of critical tweets Tuesday over the incendiary comments, Black insisted that saying Obama “should be hanged for treason” did not constitute a threat. “Free speech, no threats. #goodgrief,” he wrote on Facebook Tuesday afternoon. ”Yes, I am still running. I’m not ashamed for saying that government officials should be held to the same standards that we are.”
Black has received increased pressure from his own party to back out of the race. Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted Tuesday that Black’s comments were “outrageous” and urged him to withdraw his candidacy.
“I do not take orders from the governor, I’m staying in the race,” Black told the Tampa Bay Times.
Black drew attention Monday after quoting another tweet that read, “I’m past impeachment. It’s time to arrest and hang [Obama] high,” and adding “Agreed,” to the end.
The tweet drew backlash from a fellow Republican candidate from a neighboring district, Chris Latvala, who called Black “crazy” and “an embarrassment.”
On Monday evening, Black clarified his original comment in a longer post on his Facebook page, in which he addressed those who were “offended that I said that the POTUS should be hanged for treason” by pointing to the drone killing of Anwar al-Awaki [sic] and alleging Obama wanted both Bradley Manning and Eric [sic] Snowden to be “executed for treason when they didn’t kill anyone.”
Black told theTampa Bay Times he resigned from the executive committee of the local Pinellas County Republican Party at the request of chairman Michael Guju, who called the comments “wholly unacceptable and unduly provocative.”
Black appeared to be happy with the increased attention, tweeting at Latvala early Wednesday, “you have done it again. Thanks to your meddling, I now have twice as many followers on Twitter as I did on Monday. =).”