The following article was reported in collaboration with Right Wing Watch. It also appears on Right Wing Watch.
Updated | Michael J. Thompson demanded that someone turn down the “horrifying music” so that he could introduce the then-Daily Caller editor Scott Greer, whom he had helped publish his first book. He took nervous pulls from a can of Coors Light beer as he addressed the crowd assembled in the offices of the right-wing publication, mixing self-deprecating jokes about the “Walmart spread” of food offered to guests and seemingly earnest calls to action.
“Do not underestimate the value of your voice in influencing people in the Trump administration. You’ve got to keep fighting, because guess what, no one else is gonna do it. You have to do it,” Thompson told the crowd of people assembled on a March 2017 evening in downtown Washington, D.C., in remarks captured in a Periscope video.
Less than 24 hours before the party, an article appeared on a blog operated by Thompson; the author, writing under the name Paul Kersey, claimed to know why people were supposedly afraid to go travel to Baltimore, Maryland: “Blacks. Nothing more. Nothing less.” The closing kicker of the blog post stated the writer’s prejudice in stark terms: “No blacks, know peace; know blacks, no peace. It’s really this simple.” It is just one of more than 3,500 analogous articles that exist today on Thompson’s blog, “Stuff Black People Don’t Like.”
Thompson is just one of many members of the white nationalist movement in the United States that attempted to reinvent its public image with the “alt-right” moniker and rose to a flash of influence in Republican politics amid the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. Leading up to that political moment, a clique of the movement’s believers had situated themselves inside GOP-aligned institutions and media outlets in and around Washington, where they used the resources at their disposal to advance their cause. Thompson’s career took him inside the Leadership Institute, a pillar of the conservative movement for more than 40 years, and ultimately to the right-wing tabloid-style website, WorldNetDaily.
The story of Thompson’s career is not one of a random internet blogger; it’s a blueprint that others have followed.
A barely underground member of the white nationalist movement, Thompson has toiled undisturbed, until recently, in conservative spaces, even as a number of his associates have since been exposed for supporting the movement that left blood in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, at the 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist gathering.
Right Wing Watch and Angry White Men, a not-for-profit blog tracking figures in the white supremacist movement, can report that Thompson is the previously unknown author of racist material that has appeared on blogs and the best-known white nationalist publications for more than a decade under the Paul Kersey pen name. Angry White Men contributed in-depth research to this article while Right Wing Watch completed the investigative reporting.
Entering the Nucleus of Conservative Media
The halls of The Leadership Institute’s headquarters are lined with photographs of its distinguished alumni, visual markers of its place in conservative politics. Headshots of notable graduates–figures including Ralph Reed, Rep. Jim Jordan, and even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence, among others–are arranged in a single row on each side of a long corridor, all in identical frames. On any given week, young conservatives can attend events in its offices in Arlington, Virginia, for training in skills like public speaking, creative design, campaigning, and fundraising, and opportunities to hear distinguished guests from Capitol Hill and conservative media. On its website, the Leadership Institute claims to have “trained more than 200,000 conservative activists, leaders, and students” since its founding in 1979. It was there that Michael Thompson appears to have entered conservative politics, working as a member of the organization’s Campus Services Program, according to a 2010 press release.
During his tenure at the Leadership Institute, it also appears Thompson wrote articles for its Campus Reform media outlet. Articles bearing his byline have since been deleted but were cached via Google site-search results. Working at the Leadership Institute, Thompson grew close to white nationalist Kevin DeAnna, who was a leader of the Leadership Institute’s campus leadership program and began writing his blog, “Stuff Black People Don’t Like” (a play on the name of an internet-famous early 2000s satire blog, “Stuff White People Like”). In 2011, Thompson authored his first column for the racist publication VDARE, whose editor, Peter Brimelow, is a regular speaker at far-right conferences and has participated in panel discussions with Jared Taylor, founder of the white supremacist American Renaissance website, and Richard B. Spencer, the alt-right impresario who led the 2017 tiki-torch march at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on the eve of a violent gathering of far-right groups in the center of town.
You will barely find a trace of Thompson’s years at the Leadership Institute on its website—or anywhere, really. Neither Leadership Institute Communications Coordinator Sarah Morrison nor Campus Reform Editor-in-Chief Cabot Phillips responded to inquiries from Right Wing Watch seeking basic information on Thompson’s position with the organization.
After he left the Leadership Institute, Thompson joined the staff of WorldNetDaily, a right-wing conspiracy-theory website aligned with the Republican Party, where he worked in the marketing department. The site is helmed by founder Joseph Farah, a Trump associate who helped the then-presidential hopeful advance the false claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Thompson’s name appeared on WorldNetDaily’s masthead as early as Jan. 29, 2012, and as late as Nov. 18, 2018, as preserved in online snapshot archives. Throughout his entire tenure at the digital publication run by one of Trump’s loudest boosters, Thompson was moonlighting under a pseudonym at racist and white nationalist publications run by Brimelow and Taylor. Thompson’s work was scrubbed from the WorldNetDaily site, but some of it was archived. WorldNetDaily editors, including Farah, failed to respond to Right Wing Watch’s emailed requests for comment.
Thompson found himself at WorldNetDaily during the pinnacle of its ascendance in the Republican Party. In its heyday, Farah sought to expand WorldNetDaily into a conservative media powerhouse, publishing books by Rep. Devin Nunes, who is now the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly, who died in 2016, not long after she endorsed Trump for president. Farah even launched a documentary filmmaking company that produced feature-length movies about gun issues, Christianity, and the supposed secret plots to undermine Western civilization. When Thompson was employed there, Farah and his outlet were enjoying a renaissance of sorts, establishing WorldNetDaily as a mill for the “birther movement,” as the racist narrative questioning Obama’s birth certificate came to be known.
Using his WorldNetDaily position for access, Thompson rubbed shoulders with high-profile Republican politicians and publishers. In 2012, Thompson interviewed Joe Arpaio, then the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and other birtherism theories for WorldNetDaily (the video has since been deleted from WorldNetDaily’s website).
During an appearance on “The Hagmann Report” in 2017, Thompson boasted that he had been in contact with former White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon before Bannon joined the Trump campaign. Bannon did not respond to our request for comment.
“You know, I used to share emails three or four times a week with Steve Bannon before he was invited to become part of the Trump campaign,” Thompson told “The Hagmann Report” hosts Joe Hagmann and Jon Robberson.
In one email provided to Right Wing Watch and Angry White Men by former Breitbart editor Katie McHugh, Thompson can be seen pitching conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi as a potential guest on the SiriusXM radio program produced by Breitbart News, which Bannon hosted at the time. Bannon declined, writing back, “Zero interest,” and “Not a fan.” However, Bannon also instructed Thompson to send “all your other books” from WorldNetDaily authors, presumably for their radio-guest potential.
Thompson also appeared once on Alex Jones’ Infowars in 2017 using his real name.
Early on, Farah and WorldNetDaily stumped hard for Trump’s campaign, naming Trump the WND man of the year in 2015, which Trump called an “amazing honor.” The next year, Trump delivered a keynote address at an Arizona event honoring Farah’s career, which first became notable for the effectiveness with which Farah advanced conspiracy theories alleging that the Clintons had been involved in the death of White House aide Vince Foster. In 2011, Trump reportedly solicited advice from Farah regarding the strategic use of birther attacks on Obama, and Vice President Mike Pence recently employed Farah’s daughter as his press secretary. (Farah’s daughter is now the Pentagon press secretary and deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for media affairs.)
For seemingly other reasons, Thompson was at least as excited about Trump’s candidacy as was his boss. Appearing in his “Paul Kersey” guise with the white nationalist, alt-right Spencer on the podcast AltRight Radio, Thompson reportedly said, “Make America Great Again…That’s a synonym for Make America White Again.” Spencer did not respond to our request for comment.
Demystifying Paul Kersey
McHugh, the former Breitbart editor, was friends with Thompson in his WorldNetDaily days—she dated Thompson’s buddy DeAnna. McHugh was fired from Breitbart News in 2017 for anti-Muslim tweets she posted after a terror attack in London.
On June 6, 2019, McHugh tweeted a photo of VDARE founder Peter Brimelow and his wife Lydia Brimelow that McHugh said was taken at Thompson’s 2014 wedding. In a follow-up tweet, McHugh alleged that Thompson was the author of Stuff Black People Don’t Like.
I met McHugh for the first time at an apartment in Virginia; we sat together on a balcony that overlooked an unremarkable patch of grass and a two-lane road. She recounted painful personal stories from her time involved in white nationalist politics and the trauma she experienced while separating herself from those circles. Her voice was drenched in personal regret; she feared that the hate she had participated in was gaining meaningful political power in America. She drank Diet Coke.
McHugh provided Right Wing Watch with copies of emails in which Thompson is seen interacting, primarily using his personal email account, with other white nationalist activists and people associated with Breitbart News. Right Wing Watch was able to determine that the emails shared by McHugh are authentic. (McHugh also provided emails to the Southern Poverty Law Center that appeared in a multi-part investigative series examining White House policy adviser Stephen Miller’s allusions to white nationalism in communications with Breitbart staffers.)
“It’s not enough to apologize. If you exit these movements, you must expose every member for [the sake of] public transparency,” McHugh told Right Wing Watch and Angry White Men. “In my view, this is a public service.”
McHugh said that Thompson’s side-gig of writing and publishing racist columns was common knowledge among his circle of friends in Washington, who would often refer to his alter-ego simply as “PK.”
Thompson emailed McHugh in March 2016 to ask her to forward a question to DeAnna about whether “PB”—initials that McHugh said were meant to stand for VDARE’s Brimelow—was expecting an article from Thompson. Marcus Epstein, an anti-immigrant activist who in 2007 pleaded guilty to assaulting a black woman after calling her the “n-word,” is also included on the email chain, in which the group discusses evening get-together plans.
[Mar. 12, 2016] Michael J. Thompson: “Bull Run Winery. Tomorrow. 1 p.m. It’s quite nice and over looks the battlefield.”
Marcus Epstein: “Actually, it says it’s going to rain all day tomorrow. Come over to our house tonight.”
Katie McHugh: “Kevin’s having Avi over tonight. It’s going to be a Minecraft marathon ;)”
Michael J. Thompson: “Hey, Ask Minecraft Kevin if he still needs this piece for PB.”
According to SPLC, DeAnna claimed the title of founder of the now defunct far-right Youth for Western Civilization student group, where Epstein, who has authored columns for VDARE, served as national vice president. By 2011, DeAnna’s group had received support from white nationalists such as American Renaissance founder Jared Taylor. SPLC reports that DeAnna also worked in WorldNetDaily’s marketing department, but his byline stops appearing on the site in October 2012.
Articles written under the Paul Kersey byline at the racist publications VDARE and American Renaissance cite him as the author of Stuff Black People Don’t Like. Thompson also fundraised through these platforms. Through VDARE’s nonprofit status, fans of Paul Kersey could make tax-deductible contributions to their favorite writer (Thompson) on VDARE’s website, according to a Nov. 9 post on Stuff Black People Don’t Like. In the same blog post, “Kersey” tells readers they can also send cash, check, or money order to the same post office box used by American Renaissance.
As Thompson settled into his status as a white nationalist columnist, he began appearing as Paul Kersey more frequently on cause-aligned podcasts and radio programs. Right Wing Watch hired one of the nation’s leading certified forensic audio consultants to perform biometric voice identification, comparing recordings of Thompson speaking on video for WorldNetDaily with audio samples of the voice recorded as Paul Kersey on different web-hosted audio programs—The Political Cesspool, Red Ice TV, and American Renaissance—over a multiyear span.
The audio forensic expert hired by Right Wing Watch, who asked not to be named due to this report’s subject matter and the possibility that he and his employees would be targeted for threats and violence, has consulted for many national media outlets and testified as an expert witness in local, state, and federal courts across the United States.
SIS II software was used to determine that the three “Paul Kersey” voice recordings provided by Right Wing Watch matched the Thompson voice recording with probabilities of 92.9 percent, 98.5 percent, and 99.3 percent. The forensic consultant said that “even if somebody tries to disguise their voice,” the software can still map data points and do comparative analysis “independent of subjective interpretation.”
The forensic consultant told Right Wing Watch that if they were called to testify under oath before a court and asked what the odds were that the results from the comparison between samples of Thompson and Paul Kersey voices were inaccurate, that they would say, “there are no odds that the voices are different. They are the same voices.”
Additionally, in podcast appearances where “Paul Kersey” announced his age, it aligned with that of Thompson. Today, Thompson is in his mid-thirties.
“There is an infiltration of conservative media by white nationalists, especially those working in D.C., and publications either ignored it or were complicit,” McHugh explained. “I think that they’re aware, and they choose to do nothing about it except quietly fire people when it becomes too publicly embarrassing.”
Pulling Levers at WorldNetDaily
It was not so long ago that WorldNetDaily was among the most-read conservative publications online, but its impact is waning, and the company is bleeding funds. Thompson appears to have departed the company during a time period where the site was reportedly having financial trouble and laying off employees. But before he left, Thompson used his position inside the company to turn a former coworker into a published author.
Thompson and Scott Greer, a former editor and columnist at The Daily Caller, a conservative website founded by Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, were personal friends who lived together in Arlington in a home they sarcastically dubbed the “hate house,” McHugh said. (The home has since been acquired by new owners.)
In 2017, with Thompson’s assistance, Greer wrote a book called “No Campus for White Men: The Transformation of Higher Education into Hateful Indoctrination” for WND Books, the publishing arm of Farah’s media enterprise. Milo Yiannopoulos wrote the book’s foreword and enthusiastic blurbs from Tucker Carlson, pro-Trump social media personality Mike Cernovich, and right-wing columnist Diana West appear on the book’s jacket. Between the covers is Greer’s ode to aggrieved white men on college campuses who believe diversity and inclusion efforts will lead to their peril.
A year later, Rosie Gray, writing for The Atlantic, publicly revealed Greer as the author behind a pseudonym that appeared in Spencer’s white nationalist publication Radix Journal, causing Greer to resign as contributor to The Daily Caller.
Emails show that Thompson was fully aware of Greer’s racist political ideology before he worked with Greer to publish his book with WorldNetDaily. On Jan. 31, 2016, Thompson emailed a group of his like-minded friends, including Greer, telling them to read an article on Occidental Dissent, the blog operated by Bradley Dean Griffin of the neo-Confederate hate group League of the South. The next day, the email conversation turned to predictions for the results of the 2016 Iowa caucus, and Thompson referred to “Michael McGregor,” the name Greer used in Radix Journal. Greer did not respond to our request for comment.
[Feb. 1, 2016] Michael J. Thompson: “You sound just as conspiratorial as those claiming Trump is in the race to pave the road for Hillary!
They won’t steal this election.
Trump will win, or else it’s a bottle of Jack for everyone (a Diet Coke for Marcus [Epstein]).”
Kevin DeAnna: “The new one is out – [link to pro-Trump video compilation]”
Michael J. Thompson: “Oh, and if I’m right about Trump winning, we get to see Michael Mcgregor return to RJ [Radix Journal]! At least for one article.”
When it came time to celebrate Greer’s book launch at The Daily Caller offices in downtown D.C. on March 31, 2017, Thompson invited a laundry list of white nationalists, including then-Breitbart reporter Ian Mason, American Renaissance editor Devin Saucier, former Media Research Center staffer Tim Dionisopoulos, ex-DHS analyst Ian Smith, Epstein, and McHugh. Saucier and Epstein are confirmed to have attended, the latter of whom Thompson gave a shout-out during his remarks introducing Greer, as seen in a Periscope broadcast uploaded by longtime far-right operative Jack Posobiec(now a host for One America News Network). Thompson thanked people from Breitbart and CNS News for attending the party, and told them that they “have to keep fighting.”
Thompson went on to recount meeting Greer shortly after Greer’s college graduation and said he had watched him become “one of the top polemicists” at The Daily Caller and a voice for “the emerging new right.” Thompson used his speech to give a shout-out to “MAGA 3X,” which was a coalition of white nationalists and Trump supporters who sought to game social media in support of Trump’s candidacy. Posobiec reportedly helped lead the loosely defined MAGA 3X coalition and told Right Wing Watch he was unaware of any role Thompson held within that alliance.
The room filled with mostly khaki-clad young white men broke out into chants of “Build the Wall!” and “CNN sucks!” after Thompson’s remarks. Attendees flaunted images popularized within the alt-right, including “Kekistan” flags and images of Pepe the Frog.
Flacking “No Campus for White Men,” Thompson repeatedly emailed McHugh to ask that Greer be featured as a guest on Breitbart’s SiriusXM radio program and asked her to publish a review of the book on the Breitbart site. Greer never was booked on Breitbart’s radio program, and McHugh did not write a review of his book; however, Greer appeared across conservative media at the time—including on Carlson’s Fox News show.
McHugh said that Thompson approached her about the opportunity to write a book, as Greer had, for WorldNetDaily’s publishing arm about the opioid crisis to be called “White Death.” McHugh says she declined the offer.
White nationalists apparently believed they could count on Thompson to do their bidding inside the conservative media system, vis-a-vis his day job at WorldNetDaily. On March 15, 2016, Taylor, editor of American Renaissance, emailed an embargoed copy of a report called “Color of Crime” to McHugh, DeAnna, and Thompson, asking if they could get the report mentioned in their respective publications:
[Mar. 15, 2016] Jared Taylor: “Dear Michael, Kevin, and Katie,
We are about to release the updated Color of Crime and I thought you might want to take a look at an advance copy.
The report is embargoed until this Friday, but it would, of course, be great if WND or Breitbart could mention it.
This is all based on very sober analysis of government statistics, and I think the data and conclusions are bullet proof. The report is by New Century Foundation and doesn’t say AmRen on it anywhere, though the link to us is easy to find.
I think it’s damn good and I just wish it could break into the mainstream.
Chief author is Ed Rubenstein.
Neither McHugh nor Thompson published articles directly citing New Century Foundation’s report, but the email makes clear that Taylor saw Thompson as an individual who could help him break his racist propaganda “into the mainstream.”
More Than a Decade of Racist Material
Paul Kersey is the name of the main character in the “Death Wish” film series. Kersey is a bleeding-heart liberal who roams the streets searching for criminals to murder in the name of vigilante justice after his wife and daughter are beaten and raped. In a scene from the first film, released in 1974, cocktail-party guests can be heard discussing the vigilante murders.
“I’ll tell you one thing, the guy’s a racist. You notice he kills more blacks than whites,” a male guest says.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Harry, more blacks are muggers than whites,” a woman replies. “What do you want us to do, increase the proportion of white muggers so we’ll have racial equality among muggers?”
Black crime is a favorite topic on Thompson’s blog, Stuff Black People Don’t Like, which he launched in May 2009, as noted in a post celebrating its 10th anniversary. On the blog, Thompson presents misleading content designed to further arguments for reintroducing racial segregation in America, which he believes the country was foolish to abandon, and for reorganizing the powers of the government to enforce a ruling white supermajority in the United States. Tweets citing Paul Kersey blog posts have been retweeted by far-right commentator Ann Coulter, who could not be reached for comment.
During a 2016 appearance as “Paul Kersey” on the white supremacist web outlet Red Ice, Thompson said that his blog began as a joke between friends but quickly became more serious after he was convinced that Detroit had been destroyed by African Americans who moved there during the Great Migration. The blog, which began on the Google-owned Blogspot site, is currently hosted on a website owned by far-right writer Ron Unz.
To this day, Thompson uses his Kersey byline to advance falsehoods asserting the genetic inferiority of black people and spin reports of crimes committed by black people to justify the creation and implementation of racist government policies. He has called black men “the biggest terror threat to America” and claimed that black people are more prone to violence than white people for biological reasons. He once described black people as “America’s greatest liability, dragging down western civilization to the black mean wherever they are found.”
When Barack Obama was president, Thompson spun into meltdown after meltdown, repeatedly railing what he called “Black-Run America” and claiming that electing an African American president had solidified “the United States’ permanent decline.” That kind of repulsion for black people carries into Thompson’s vision of the United States.
In one article Thompson, writing as Kersey, co-authored with Taylor for American Renaissance, the pair argued that the anniversary of the United States Naturalization Law of March 26, 1790, which limited the acceptance of immigrants to the United States to free white people, should be recognized as American Independence Day, rather than July 4. Thompson has also denounced the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which did away with racial quotas for immigration.
Thompson has repeatedly promoted the white supremacist “Great Replacement” myth—the notion that the white populations of various countries are being “replaced” by black- and brown-skinned immigrants. He’s currently writing a book under the Kersey byline called “The Great Replacement in the USA,” according to a recent Kersey blog post. Since the Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre on March 15, 2019—where a white supremacist uploaded a manifesto crediting the myth as his reason for killing 51 Muslim worshipers in two mosques—Thompson has promoted the “great replacement” myth in at least twelve Kersey blog posts.
“The Great Replacement is not only real, but leveling the civilization our ancestors built in the United States and slowly – but surely – erasing the rights we were granted. Sadly, we are learning they are not inalienable, but easily defeated simply because demography is destiny. And democracy is nothing more than a racial headcount,” Thompson wrote in November.
“Kersey” has published a volume of columns and books that rivals some of the country’s most prolific white supremacist propagandists. He has appeared on podcasts alongside well-documented white nationalists, including Spencer and Greg Johnson, and regularly co-hosts the American Renaissance podcast with Taylor.
His Nearly Clean Getaway
The pavement was wet and the suburban sidewalks quiet in a middle-class neighborhood sprung from the ruins of a coal-mining town after the mine closed down. Most of the white wood mailbox posts display the last name of the family that resides in the home they belong to, but the post is blank where Thompson is thought to live in Midlothian, Virginia.
Tracking down Thompson was a difficult task, due to how diligent he has been in obscuring his identity and maintaining a low profile in conservative society since his time at WorldNetDaily. When I drove by the home, I caught only a glimpse of a man who I thought looked like Thompson, and who withdrew inside his garage after I stopped my vehicle in front of his home. Multiple attempts to reach Thompson via email failed. His neighbors declined to talk to us.
We were unable to determine whether Thompson continues to work anywhere using his real name, or if his income comes primarily from his role within the white nationalist movement. Thompson’s former colleagues, employers, and friends declined to speak with us, except for Epstein, who called us and then declined to be interviewed after we informed him about this report’s subject matter.
Thompson seemingly maneuvered himself into the heart of right-wing politics in Washington and escaped without a scratch, unlike many of his peers who saw their careers implode. It’s not clear who knew about Thompson’s moonlighting and to what extent he is still in communication with employees at right-wing media outlets and The Leadership Institute.
I tried to imagine Thompson coming back to the two-story home in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, turning into the gentle curves of the road and rolling up the driveway to greet his children; it’s a serene picture of an unassuming American life. But online, Thompson authors vitriolic material for racist websites that Trump’s top policy adviser on immigration apparently reads. That much he can no longer hide.
[Update: This article previously stated that the Youth for Western Civilization student group received support from white nationalists at its founding. The story has been updated to reflect that the group reportedly received such support in 2011.]