Days after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned deadly on 12 August 2017, the conservative Daily Caller web site had deleted three articles by the rally’s organizer. One the deleted articles promoted the rally’s cause.
The rally was organized by Jason Kessler and other white supremacist figures including Richard Spencer and Nathan Damigo. It centered around the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee at Emancipation Park in downtown Charlottesville. Local resident Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and nineteen people were injured on Saturday when a man drove a car into a group of counter-demonstrators — a crime for which James Alex Fields of Ohio has been charged.
Kessler is trying to organize a “white civil rights” rally on the 2018 anniversary of the Charlottesville melee, this time in Washington, D.C. across the street from the White House, according to public records. As of 18 July 2018 he has not been granted a permit.
On 14 May 2017, the Daily Caller published an article by Kessler entitled, “Richard Spencer Leads White Nationalist Demonstration In Front Of Virginia Robert E. Lee Monument”:
Two flash mobs led by white nationalists Richard Spencer and Sam Dickson took place Saturday in downtown Charlottesville, VA, home of an ongoing dispute over Confederate monuments in the South.
In the evening event over 200 men and women carried torches to the statue of Robert E. Lee in a visually striking demonstration. The statue has been targeted by left-wing groups who’ve tried to have it removed just as the city of New Orleans has recently begun to do to their confederate monuments.
Spencer and Dickson talked about the need to commemorate the dead whom they describe as dying in “brother wars” (i.e. wars between people of European ancestry). In response the crowd chanted “no more brother wars.”
It started Friday afternoon when a group of about 150 clad in white polos and white dresses formed a marching column called a “white bloc” — a response to the “black bloc” uniforms of anarcho-communist group Antifa — at MacGuffey Art Center and marched in military formation to Jackson Park where they turned about face to greet featured speakers Richard Spencer, Sam Dickson, Nathan Damigo and Mike Peinovich.
Spencer spoke first, saying, “We are here to say no; no more attacks on our heritage, on our identity; no more attacks on us as a people.”
Nathan Damigo, who caused a sensation in Berkeley by punching an Antifa rioter, added, “This fight is essentially a demographic struggle for the future of Western Civilization.”
Two weeks after the Daily Caller published Kessler’s story, nonprofit news outlet ProPublica revealed he had left out some critical details — namely that Kessler didn’t simply observe and report back on the rally; he was part of it. According to ProPublica:
It didn’t disclose that its author, Jason Kessler, is supportive of white supremacist groups, and on the day of the march had himself made a speech to the protesters in which he praised fascist and racist organizations, thanked a prominent Holocaust denier, and declared the beginnings of a cultural “civil war.”
ProPublica contacted Kessler after the article’s publication. In the course of an extended interview, Kessler said he saw efforts to remove symbols of the Confederacy as part of a broader attack on white people who, in his view, face an “existential crisis.”
“White people are rapidly becoming a minority in the U.S. and Europe,” he said, adding that he resented the country having to take in immigrants and refugees. “If we’re not able to advocate for ourselves we may go extinct.”
ProPublica also contacted The Daily Caller. Widely read in right-wing circles — the site gets nearly 10 million unique visitors per month, according to Quantcast — The Daily Caller was co-founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson, who served as editor-in-chief until late last year when he took a prime-time job at Fox News. Carlson, who hosts a nightly show in the time slot that once belonged to Bill O’Reilly, remains co-owner of the site. Like Breitbart News, The Daily Caller has found an audience by posting a constant stream of punchy news stories, some of them imbued with racial overtones.
Within hours of being contacted by a ProPublica reporter, The Daily Caller appended an editor’s note to the article and severed its ties with Kessler. The editor’s note states, “The author notified The Daily Caller after publication that he spoke at a luncheon May 14 on behalf of an effort to preserve the monument.”
After Kessler’s involvement with the rally was brought to light, Paul Conner, executive editor for the Daily Caller, told ProPublica the article remained live on the web site because it was factually accurate, but the publication had “suspended” their freelance relationship with him.
Kessler had at least two other previous stories on the web site — one on 26 April 2017 in which he interviewed Kyle Chapman, a 41 year old man known online as “Based Stickman” and who has become famous among supporters for swinging a stick at opponents during “alt-right” demonstrations. A third story written on 3 April 2017 outlined the gruesome murder of a 17-year-old boy by MS-13 gang members. As of 14 August 2017, the urls for those stories are no longer live and Kessler’s author page had been deleted.
At the time this article was initially published, a voice message left for Conner and email sent to Kessler had gone unanswered. One year later, editor-in-chief Geoffrey Ingersoll confirmed he had personally “nuked” Kessler’s stories. Ingersoll said Kessler was a self-employed freelancer who was paid per click. Ingersoll refused to answer a question about why readers were not informed that Kessler’s material had been scrubbed from the site, demanding first that we explain our reasons for asking. He would not answer questions asking for details on how the publication would prevent similar incidents going forward.
On 3 July 2018, BuzzFeed News revealed that the Daily Caller is among a number of right-wing web sites that published advertising disguised as editorial content.
18 July 2018: This article has been updated to include comments from Daily Caller editor-in-chief Geoffrey Ingersoll and details about an attempt to organize another white supremacist rally in Washington, D.C. by Jason Kessler.