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Criticism of Trump draws harassment and violent threats

As Trump routinely tweets attacks at his rivals, others take it further, threatening his critics online and in person for weeks and months on end.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at Clinton Middle School in Clinton, Iowa, Jan., 30, 2015. (Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at Clinton Middle School in Clinton, Iowa, Jan., 30, 2015.

Liz Mair’s mother didn’t want her to go outside yesterday: She was convinced that Mair, a Republican political consultant who is running an anti-Donald Trump super PAC, would be hurt.

Mair is in Trump’s crosshairs — albeit obliquely — after her group attacked Trump via an ad that used an image of a nude-and-handcuffed Melania Trump, the Republican front-runner's wife, from a 2000 photo shoot. The candidate blamed the ad on Ted Cruz’s campaign, but his supporters traced it to Mair anyway — and her mom, too.

“She woke up and there was a very, very nasty threatening voicemail from somebody who’s a Trump supporter. She’s going to make a decision about a police report,” Mair told MSNBC. “I’ve already had to file a police report about a Trump supporter who threatened to behead me.”

Mair is just one of the many who have spoken out against Trump and been harassed for it. Her home address was later published online by one of his supporters, she tweeted.

As Trump routinely tweets attacks at his rivals that are then seen by his 6 million Twitter followers, others take it further: Ganging up, harassing and threatening his critics online and in person for weeks and months on end. They adopt Trump-like insults — his critics are often "losers" — and routinely publish and circulate private information, just as Trump did last summer when he read rival candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham's cell phone number aloud on live television.

There's a similar pattern at rallies: After Trump blasted protesters at his events and suggested they should be "roughed up," violence began erupting on site with supporters physically clashing with demonstrators. Trump has blamed the protesters and refused to condemn the violence. He's also offered a subtle stamp of approval by announcing he was looking into paying the legal fees for a supporter who was shown in a video punching a protester as he was being escorted out of a rally. 

RELATED: Examining Trump's problem with women voters 

"This is what life will be like under Trump," conservative blogger Bethany Mandel told MSNBC. After she criticized the the candidate on Twitter and in blog posts, she was routinely harassed by apparent Trump supporters.

As a result, Mandel recently bought a .22 Magnum revolver after receiving a seemingly an endless tirade of violent threats online. She said she was called a “slimy Jewess” and received death threats sent to her private Facebook account. Mandel reported it to her local police department, who she said didn't take it very seriously.

"I have nightmares that someone's trying to break into our apartment, and it's going to take 10 minutes for a patrol car" to arrive, she added.

Many interviewed for this story, Jews and non-Jews alike, said the harassment has often referenced the Holocaust gas chamber. Mandel, who is Jewish and open about her faith online, said she's not surprised the backlash has been anti-Semitic in part.

"When the mob comes after groups of people, it always ends up at the Jews," Mandel said, adding that Trump's daughter, Ivanka, converted to orthodox Judaism in 2009 and openly practices the religion with her family. Mandel said she wanted Trump to confront the anti-Semitism his fans express online.

The candidate boasted of his daughter’s Judaism to an audience during a speech with to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, but Trump has twice re-tweeted posts by a user who has expressed anti-Semitic comments and listed his location as "Jewmerica." 

After conservative consultant and commentator Cheri Jacobus criticized Trump’s debating skills on TV (though she notes she’d also previously defended him in another appearance), she was slammed by the candidate himself on Twitter and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who said she “begged” them for a job and was angry because she didn’t get it. Jacobus vehemently disputes this: She said she had been approached by Trump’s team and met with them twice, but said both sides left the second talk disinterested.

Since then, she said Trump’s followers have attacked her daily.

“They distort my face where it looks like it’s melting off ... they put a pair of balls on my chin. They put me in a gas chamber and Trump is in a Nazi outfit pushing the button to gas me,” Jacobus told MSNBC. “That’s what happens when you oppose Trump. He set the tone for this.”

RELATED: Ben Carson struggles to defend Trump in combative interview

Rick Wilson said he and his family have been harassed for the last year on a daily basis.

The Republican strategist, who has been one of the most outspoken Trump critics since the real estate mogul announced his bid last summer, receives at least 25 angry or obscene phone calls a week. He had to set up a filter for his email to prevent the angry messages and constant images of genitalia from making it into his inbox. Wilson has filed multiple police reports about the worst of it, including a rape threat sent to his daughter that listed her college address.

"All this completely nutcase racist sh*t. The Trump world — they're lovely people," he said sarcastically.

Even those whose work doesn't put them in the public eye said they've routinely been harassed online for criticizing Trump. 

Daniel Windham, who was an active Twitter supporter of Sen. Marco Rubio before he suspended his presidential bid, mocked Trump's Nevada speech in a Twitter exchange.

A Twitter user whose avatar is a "Make America Great Again" hat superimposed on a photo of Thomas Jefferson reminded him that his account included photos of his family. "Ye be warned," the user wrote.

"Makes me sick," Windham told MSNBC, adding that this kind of exchange had happened before.

Another active Twitter user Susie Timm (who has no relation to this reporter) told MSNBC she responded to one of Ann Coulter's tweets in February, calling Trump a loser. Apparent Trump supporters "unleashed a deluge" of attacks on her, mostly criticizing her appearance, calling her a "whore" and a "loser."

The attacks have mostly stopped since then, but she asked that her home city not be shared in this article for fear for her safety.

"Honestly, I think anything is possible with these people," Timm said.