A discredited black former journalist fired last year for fabricating stories was arrested Friday and accused of conducting a months-long stalking campaign that culminated in emailed bomb threats to Jewish organizations, federal prosecutors said. They said the campaign was an effort to harass an ex-girlfriend.
However, Juan M. Thompson is not believed to be the main suspect behind this year’s rash of bomb threats, two law enforcement officials told ABC News, Aaron Katersky, Josh Margolin, Mike Levine and Emily Shapiro reported for the network.
“NBC Nightly News” led with the story, and ABC’s “World News Tonight” included it in its first block.
“ ‘Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish Community Centers and to the Anti-Defamation League,’ U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara said in a statement,” Doyle Murphy reported for the Riverfront Times in Thompson’s hometown of St. Louis.
“ ‘Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race — whatever the motivation — are unacceptable, un-American, and criminal. We are committed to pursuing and prosecuting those who foment fear and hate through such criminal threats.’
“Thompson, 31, was once a reporter for The Intercept, but he was fired after the New York City-based news site found he had been making up sources. Our investigation turned up even more journalistic problems dating back to his college days at Vassar in Poughkeepsie, New York,” Murphy reported.
“Thompson later briefly surfaced at an online news site, but was fired after someone there learned of his background. He has blamed racism for his difficulties and self-published a piece on Medium blasting The Intercept and ‘the white liberal media.’ “
[”Before working at Intercept, Thompson was an intern for DNAInfo in Chicago in July and August of 2013, and worked as an intern at WBEZ from May until August of 2014,” Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky reported for the Washington Post.]
“More recently, Thompson launched a GoFundMe campaign, claiming he was running for St. Louis mayor. (He never filed the necessary paperwork.) . . .”
Jeremy Kohler and Robert Patrick reported Friday for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the alleged campaign by Thompson “culminated with emailed bomb threats to Jewish community centers, schools, a museum and other organizations on eight days in January and February, either using his ex-girlfriend’s name or his own, a federal criminal complaint says. He would later publicly claim on social media that she was trying to falsely implicate him, the complaint says.” The Post-Dispatch and other outlets posted the complaint online.
“University City Police Lt. Fredrick Lemons said detectives would also question Thompson about the headstones toppled at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on Feb. 18 and 19, but declined to say whether he was considered a suspect.
“Thompson appeared in court briefly Friday afternoon in khakis, boots and a button-down blue shirt. He was shackled at the wrists and ankles.
“Thompson conferred with the assistant federal public defender appointed to his case, Lucille Liggett, before the hearing began. At the start of the hearing, Liggett did not concede that her client was Thompson, saying he was entitled to an identity hearing. . . .”
The Intercept issued this statement: “We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint. Thompson worked for The Intercept from November 2014 to January 2016, when he was fired after we discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles.”
The ABC News reporters wrote, “After Thompson’s arrest, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement, thanking law enforcement ‘for aggressively pursuing and arresting a suspect in a disgusting series of threats against Jewish Community Centers. When you attack someone because of who they are, how they worship or who they love, you are attacking our democracy.’
“New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill added, ‘The defendant caused havoc, expending hundreds of hours of police and law enforcement resources to respond and investigate these threats. We will continue to pursue those who pedal fear, making false claims about serious crimes.’ . . .”
“ ‘He wants to create Jewish newtown tomorrow.’
“This was a reference to the 2012 school shooting in Connecticut in which a gunman murdered 26 people.
“In several tweets presented by investigators, Mr Thompson repeatedly accused his former girlfriend of making bomb threats in his name, in order to pin the crime on him.
“He claimed she had hacked his email account.
“[Victim-1], though I can’t prove it, even sent a bomb threat in my name to a Jewish center, which was odd given her antisemitic statement,” he posted on 24 February 2017. [The ex-girlfriend was called “Victim-1.”]
“He also made several posts condemning the anti-Jewish threats.
“It was allegedly part of a months-long campaign against his former partner after they broke up in July 2016.
“Thompson began by sending an email to her manager at a New York-area social service organisation.
“The message claimed she had been pulled over for drunk driving and sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease.
“He allegedly went on to threaten to publish nude photos of the woman, before escalating to the bomb threats this year.
“On 24 February, he posted on Twitter: ‘Y’all know how to get a social worker in NY barred? I’m being stalked and harassed by a white nasty white woman.’ “
Doyle Murphy, Riverfront Times, St. Louis: Disgraced Reporter Juan Thompson Hired, Fired From New Writing Job (Sept. 19)
Doyle Murphy, Riverfront Times, St. Louis: Juan Thompson Wrote About St. Louis for the National Media. But Were Any of His Stories True? (Feb. 24, 2016)
Erik Wemple, Washington Post: How the media dealt with The Intercept’s retracted story on Dylann Roof’s ‘cousin’ (Feb. 3, 2016)
Keith Woods, vice president of diversity in news and operations at NPR, will add newsroom training to his portfolio, the network announced on Thursday.
“Since coming to NPR in 2010, Keith has helped reporters and editors here and at dozens of public radio stations to strengthen their journalism with more inclusive, accurate and precise reporting and writing, especially on the subject of race,” Michael Oreskes, senior vice president, news and editorial director, and Christopher Turpin, vice president, news programming and operations, said in an announcement to the staff.
“Keith will work with the training team to make diversity an integral part of what we do at NPR and with stations, an effort that began when Eric Athas led the team. He’ll add three areas of expertise to NPR’s newsroom training: Leadership, Diversity, and Writing/Editing for the Web. . . .”
Woods’ title will be vice president for newsroom training and diversity, though “he will remain a part of [President and CEO] Jarl Mohn’s executive team to ensure that diversity continues to be a central part of our organizational culture.”
The memo also said, “Keith brings to the job 22 years of experience training journalists, students and college professors from across the country and around the world. In his nearly 40 years in the profession, he has been an award-winning sportswriter and news reporter, a City Editor and editorial writer.
“He was also Dean of Faculty at the Poynter Institute, the country’s leading school for professional journalists, where he taught ethics, writing and coverage of race relations for over 15 years. Our large goal here is to put Keith squarely in the newsroom, here at NPR and all across public media. . . .”
Full memo in the Comments section on the “Journal-isms” site.
A daylong Columbia University discussion on President Trump and the news media that initially included no African Americans or Hispanics took place Friday with Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker and Sheryl Huggins Salomon, senior editor-at-large and former managing editor of TheRoot.com, participating. Both are black journalists.
The program was cited in this space last week as an example of how discussions of Trump and the First Amendment were not including sufficient numbers of people of color.
The discussion, “Covering Trump: What Happens When Journalism, Politics and Fake News Collide,” was livestreamed here, as Shelley Hepworth of Columbia Journalism Review reported Thursday that it would be.Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review, told Journal-isms that the entire video would be available at cjr.org.
David Uberti, Columbia Journalism Review: Breitbart editor slams mainstream media in Pulitzer Hall
“I have come to depend on Richard’s column as one of my main avenues of news and information on how we are doing as a profession in meeting the needs of our diverse communities.”The Journal-isms column is needed more than ever to document how the media are covering the racial turmoil of the past couple of years and solving the still unresolved issues on how to improve the thought processes of our news organizations in the digital age.”
— Arlene Notoro Morgan, assistant dean for external affairs at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication.
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