White nationalist demonstrators walk into the entrance of Lee Park surrounded by counter demonstrators on Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville. (Steve Helber/AP)
Tony Hovater, the white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer featured in a controversial New York Times article this weekend, said he lost his job and would soon lose his home following a swift backlash over the article.
Hovater, a 29-year-old Ohio resident, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he has been fired from his job and that he and his wife, Maria, are in the process of moving out of their home in New Carlisle, Ohio, for financial and safety reasons. They could no longer afford to pay the rent, he said, and somebody had published their home address online.
“It’s not for the best to stay in a place that is now public information,” he said, adding later: “We live alone. No one else is there to watch the house while I’m away.”
The lengthy Times profile that was published Saturday portrayed the daily and seemingly normal life of Hovater, whom writer Richard Fausset described as the “Nazi sympathizer next door” and a “committed foot soldier” of the far-right movement. The article also described Hovater as a “Seinfeld” fan whose “Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother.”
Hovater said that he, his wife and his brother-in-law were fired Monday. All three worked at 571 Grill & Draft House, a small restaurant in New Carlisle.
The restaurant’s owners said in a statement Wednesday that they did not know of Hovater’s white nationalist views until the Times article was published. They said the article illustrated “some very disturbing images and thoughts” that they do not share.
[ New York Times faces backlash over half-baked profile of white nationalist ]
The owners also said that they and their other employees have been bombarded with threatening and intimidating calls and social media messages since the article was published. That prompted Hovater to suggest to the owners to “release him from employment,” the statement said. They did so and also fired Hovater’s wife and brother-in-law shortly after.
“We felt it necessary to fully sever the relationship with them in hopes to protect our 20 other employees from the verbal and social media threats being made from individuals all over the country, and as far as Australia. We neither encourage nor support any forms of hate within our establishment,” the owners said.
Hovater, meanwhile, said that after the restaurant began receiving calls Monday morning, he was told that he “probably” has “to get out of here.” Before the owners fired his brother-in-law, he said, they asked him if he has the same beliefs as Hovater.
“Businesses will do what they have to do to protect their businesses,” he said.
After Hovater was fired, his supporters launched a crowdfunding campaign through a website called Goyfundme.com to raise money for him and his wife.
“Tony was fired from his job for his political beliefs. His wife and family all fired all at once to avoid the political pressure,” Matt Parrott, who runs the site, said, adding that the “nationalist community” has rallied behind the Hovaters.
The campaign has raised more than $8,000 as of Thursday morning.
According to the website, the Times article “resulted in a smear campaign” against Hovater and his wife. It claimed that “communists, antifa, and general basement-dwelling ne’er-do-wells set to work immediately, identifying their place of employment and harassing their management into terminating them.”
Goyfundme.com, which relies on bitcoin and credit and debit card payments, is an alternative crowdfunding site created earlier this year after mainstream fundraising sites like GoFundMe and PayPal removed campaigns and accounts associated with far-right ideologies. Parrott condemned “active censorship” and what he sees as the lack of net neutrality among the sites.
The crowdfunding site’s name is an alt-right play on GoFundMe.
As the Forward notes, “’Goy’…is a Hebrew word which literally means ‘nation’ but has taken on a pejorative connotation to refer to non-Jews. Perhaps less widely known is the fact that the online provocateurs of the ‘alt-right’ have taken up the word as their own — imagining shadowy Jewish forces who manipulate the ‘good goy’ to do their bidding.”
[ Recounting a day of rage, hate, violence and death ]
Hovater and Parrott are both co-founders of the Traditionalist Worker Party, one of the extreme right-wing groups that rallied in August in Charlottesville, where a car allegedly driven by a Nazi sympathizer plowed into a group of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The aftermath of the Charlottesville rally was the genesis of the Times profile on Hovater, national editor Marc Lacey said in a column responding to widespread criticism of the story. Many have accused the Times of normalizing a man who unabashedly supports Adolf Hitler.
“We described Mr. Hovater as a bigot, a Nazi sympathizer who posted images on Facebook of a Nazi-like America full of happy white people and swastikas everywhere,” Lacey wrote.
Later, he added that the Times regrets that the article offended so many.
“We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story,” Lacey wrote. “What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them. That’s what the story, however imperfectly, tried to do.”
Fausset, the writer, also responded.
He wrote that he and his editors had hoped to understand why someone like Hovater, who’s “intelligent, socially adroit and raised middle class amid the relatively well-integrated environments of United States military bases,” drifted toward an extreme political ideology. Fausset acknowledged that his article, after multiple revisions and despite hours of conversation with Hovater, never really answered that question.
“Mr. Hovater was exceedingly candid to me — often shockingly so — but it seems as though his worldview was largely formed by the same recombinant stuff that influences our mainstream politics . . . But even if I had called Mr. Hovater yet again — even if we had discussed Blavatsky at length, the way we did his ideas about the Federal Reserve Bank — I’m not sure it would have answered the question.”
Hovater said he thought Fausset would “editorialize” the article, but he said it “was immensely fair.”
“A lot of people were confused with what he was trying to do with that story. He’s not trying to set out and spook people,” Hovater said. “He wrote the article, he wrote the story that was given, and it was an accurate portrayal of me.”
Hovater said he and his wife are now staying with a friend. He also said he still expects income from his contractual job as a welder.
This post has been updated.
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