Sandpoint Reader is target of new calls describing publisher as ‘cancer’ that ‘needs to be burned out’

A neo-Nazi activist who sent out hostile and abusive robocalls aimed at top politicians and others has been linked to threats to the publisher of a small local newspaper that first exposed his activities.

Scott Rhodes, who lives in Sandpoint, Idaho, was first identified by the Sandpoint Reader and linked with a campaign that targeted high-profile political races across the US and even murder victims with racist and antisemitic robocalls.

In recent days threatening robocalls and letters have been sent to the publishers of the Reader, an alternative newspaper, people linked to it and residents in the small rural town.

The robocall described journalist Ben Olson, the publisher of the Reader, as “a cancer on wholesome north Idaho”, adding that “cancer needs to be burned out”.

When Rhodes was asked about the call by the Guardian via email, he sent a link to a YouTube video that reproduced the robocall audio, and featured video of a large stack of copies of the Sandpoint Reader being set on fire.

That video has since been removed by YouTube. The hundreds of newspapers burned in the video represent a significant slice of the Reader’s print run, which Olson says is 5,000 a week.

The robocall was also embedded in an email sent to many residents, which read “Attached is a 56-second audio mp3 file of a public service alert”, and contained photographs of Olson.

One of those who received the call, retired journalist Jay Shelledy, said “it was very close to being, if not in fact, a physical threat”.

Related: Prominent white supremacist scolded on video by his father

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