'Make America White Again': Tenn. congressional candidate's billboard ignites uproar

The billboard of a Tennessee restaurant owner running for Congress reading "Make America White Again" has drawn criticism from Polk County residents. (Rick Tyler)

POLK COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVC) - The billboard of a Tennessee restaurant owner running for Congress reading "Make America White Again" has drawn criticism from Polk County residents.

Rick Tyler told WTVC he owns Whitewater Grill in Ocoee, but in the coming months will transition to campaigning to represent Tennessee's 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Tyler says his "Make America White Again" sign, which plays off of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, was taken down on Tuesday evening.

Tyler spelled out his billboard strategy on his congressional campaign website. In a page titled "The Billboard Strategy," he explains the reasons he wanted the billboard up:

"With its towering and massive stature, the billboard sign is difficult to ignore and its message comes across as authoritative and influential."

The page goes on to explicitly cite Trump as an inspiration for the sign:

"For these reasons we are confident that a widespread and creative billboard advertising game plan could go a long way toward making the Rick Tyler For Congress candidacy both viable and a force to be reckoned with. Clearly we are in uncharted waters, in that there has never been a candidacy like this in modern political history. Of great significance, as well, is the reality of the Trump phenomenon and the manner in which he has loosened up the overall spectrum of political discourse."

The website says the billboard on Highway 411 could "make a major splash:"

"The Make America White Again billboard advertisement will cut to the very core and marrow of what plagues us as a nation. As Anne Coulter so effectively elucidates in her book, Adios America, the overhaul of America's immigration law in the 1960's has placed us on an inevitable course of demise and destruction. Yes the cunning globalist/Marxist social engineers have succeeded in destroying that great bulwark against statist tyranny the white American super majority. Without its expedited restoration little hope remains for the nation as a whole."

Tyler's page says the "Make America White Again" billboard was the first one of many planned for the area in the months leading up to the November election. Other billboard ideas are posted on the site, with slogans like "Fight federal tyranny / Stop the Muslim invasion" and "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be miscegenators." Another billboard idea depicts two hands of different races holding the other, with a circle and slash superimposed over it.

The page asks for financial support to create the billboards.

Ballotpedia lists Tyler as an Independent. The site also says he ran for the same office in 2014, receiving 5,579 votes, or 0.4 percent of the total votes cast.

Delano resident Amy Hines posted a photo of the billboard on her Facebook page:

Woody's post says, "This disgusting bunch of bigotry was erected about 20 minutes from our house. The person listed, Mr. Rick Tyler, is a local business owner. Please, if you are the decent and loving people I know you to be, boycott this business."

A longtime Whitewater Grill customer, Jimmy Johnson, also expressed his displeasure at the sign on Facebook:

The Kiwanis Club of Ocoee says it will no longer hold meetings at Whitewater Grill as a result of the billboard.

Other longtime Whitewater Grill customers condemned the billboard's message on social media.

On WTVC's Facebook post of this story, many Trump supporters were quick to disavow Tyler's message.

Cindy Robinson said, "I'm for Trump but not for that!" Viewer Don Tate added, " As a trump (sic) supporter that is a poor excuse of a human to put a sign up like that. But that's the wonderful thing about freedom of speech at least you know what's really in their heart."

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes released the following statement regarding Independent Congressional Candidate Rick Tyler's offensive billboards in Polk County, Tennessee: "There's no room for this type of hateful display in our political discourse. Racism should be rejected in all its heinous forms in the Third Congressional District and around the country."

What do you think of Tyler's billboard? Click here to join the conversation on WTVC/NewsChannel 9's Facebook page.

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