The Lancaster County backers of a conservative website and planned print newspaper announced Tuesday that they are shutting down their project, just days after an LNP | LancasterOnline investigation revealed that the editor of The Lancaster Patriot hosted a podcast on a white nationalist website.
The Lancaster Patriot had said it was scheduled to publish its first edition next month. A new version of its website launched last week, advertising subscriptions to its coming print edition and showcasing a handful of local advertisers.
According to an announcement posted early Tuesday morning, The Lancaster Patriot’s publishers said they had been excited to offer an “unbiased, conservative news with a Christian viewpoint” to the county. But in light of the revelations about the site’s editor, they said the proposed newspaper would close.
An unsigned note posted to the homepage of thelancasterpatriot.com reads, in part: “It has been reported this week that our future editor-in-chief has elsewhere, expressed politically incorrect and offensive views. This being the case, the Publisher and the Investors have decided that it is best to close doors before we officially open since we do not approve of or condone those views.”
The publishers and investors supporting the project have never identified themselves publicly, and until the weekend even the site’s editor, Norman Asa Garrison III, identified himself only as “Trey.”
Garrison was the subject of an LNP | LancasterOnline story showing that he was the host of a racist podcast called The Third Rail that’s featured on The Right Stuff, a media platform used to spread neo-Nazi and white supremacist views, stoke racial tension and circulate conspiracy theories. He hosted this podcast for several years, and appeared on an episode as recently as August under his alias, “Spectre.”
The Lancaster Patriot’s Twitter account showed it had been suspended by the site for violating its terms of service. The Patriot's newly launched website carries only the publisher’s message saying the site is closing. But an original version of the site, lancaster-blog.com, remains available with all of its content. A Facebook page for the site was still active as of early Tuesday.
People who subscribed to the print edition of The Lancaster Patriot will receive a refund within two weeks, according to the publisher’s announcement.
Garrison, 51, is a long-time Texas resident and former journalist who began publishing lancaster-blog.com earlier this year, identifying himself only as “Trey.” He picked up a significant following on Twitter for his live coverage of the late-night riot that ensued in front of the Lancaster police station on Sept. 13. His videos were used and credited by national news outlets like Fox News and promoted on social media by conservative personalities like Michelle Malkin.
LNP | LancasterOnline left multiple messages for Garrison requesting comment for its original story. None were returned.
After LNP | LancasterOnline's story ran, some local politicians and advertisers began backing away from the site, saying that they were unaware of the author's hidden views.
Garrison was the subject of a January 2019 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Garrison confirmed to the organization’s HateWatch blog that he was the host of The Third Rail podcast. He also confirmed his identity as the editor behind Lancaster Patriot in a post published shortly after LNP | LancasterOnline published its story revealing Trey’s identity.
Patrick Lee Plaisance, a Penn State journalism professor and editor of the Journal of Media Ethics, previously told LNP| LancasterOnline that The Lancaster Patriot is another example of an advocacy or partisan news site masking itself as a reputable news source.
Most journalists strive for transparency and “a sense of balance,” which is not apparent on The Lancaster Patriot, Plaisance said.
“Just the fact that it’s very difficult to track down and identify the actual people, this site tells you quite a bit about their motives and whether or not they should be considered journalists,” Plaisance added. “This is a classic case where a politically zealous writer has really tried to clothe himself as a journalist.”