Minnesotan's anti-Obama tweets attract Secret Service attention

It took President Obama until six years into his presidency to set up a Twitter account. But it only took minutes after his first post for a stream of racist and sometimes violent tweets to arrive in response.

Some came from a Minnesotan who's now being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.

The president launched the account with a friendly tweet on Monday.

Most of the messages that Twitter users posted to the president's account were positive. But as the New York Times noted, some users deluged the account with sexual, racist or violent messages. Among those was an image from the username @jeffgully49, whom the Times identified as Jeff Gullickson of Minneapolis. He wrote, "hope to see you hang soon you treasonous fraud."

Gullickson followed that up with an image of Obama with a noose around his neck and the words,"we need 'ROPE FOR CHANGE' we still hang for treason don't we?"

The comments sparked a strong response online. Some Twitter users called the tweets to the Secret Service's attention, and an agent paid Gullickson a visit.

In an email to MPR News Friday afternoon, Gullickson said he was "surprised that a meme that I shared got that big a response." He described the episode as "blown up way out of proportion."

"The agent from the secret service was cordial," Gullickson wrote. "He just needed to insure I was not a threat. Which I'm not. It wasn't meant to be racist. It was a parody of the Obama hope meme."

Gullickson repeated his assertion that "Obama has committed treason. ... My only regret is being called racist when my opinion of the president has more to do with him being a communist as opposed to being black."

Secret Service spokesperson Robert Hoback confirmed that Gullickson had been visited and that he is the subject of an active investigation.

In an emailed statement, he said the agency receives intelligence from a number of sources, including Twitter. Tips are assessed to determine what sort of danger they represent, and agents decide on the appropriate follow-up, which could range from just a visit to criminal prosecution.

"People have the right to free speech," Hoback said. "We also have the right and an obligation to determine a person's intent when they say something."

Gullickson's Twitter account has posted 46,800 messages since May 2010. He appears to have first posted the image of the president with a noose around his neck in March 2014.

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