“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,” reporters Gillian McGoldrick and Carter Walker reported in Wednesday’s LNP. Their investigative piece published Sunday had detailed the history of Norman Asa Garrison III, who was “described by experts who study hate groups as a notorious white nationalist with a history of instigating harassment campaigns.” Identifying himself as “Trey,” Garrison was the personality at the center of The Lancaster Patriot. “Trey” has now acknowledged that he is Garrison.
“We must reject the views of The Lancaster Patriot and those who supported it,” John George, of Lititz, wrote in a letter published Thursday in this section. “We must make it known that hate and racism will not be tolerated in our community. ... We must ensure that Lancaster remain a community that values kindness, empathy and respect for all.”
We could not have said it better.
George distilled why all of this matters.
Why it was necessary.
This newspaper, behind excellent work by a team of reporters and editors, identified the man behind a website that sought to fracture this community.
Sunday’s article detailed Garrison’s history. Much of that history is uncomfortable to read and repeat. But we must, in order to understand why we should neither embrace him in Lancaster County nor consider him a journalist.
Here are some of those details from Garrison’s past, as reported by McGoldrick and Carter:
— “He encouraged his supporters in the alt-right, a loosely connected group of white nationalists, to commit violence against women and smash journalists in the face with bricks.”
— In a 2017 episode of his podcast, which he hosts under the pseudonym “Spectre” and which is produced by a neo-Nazi and white supremacist website, “Garrison told listeners how to pull a ‘very bad prank’ by falsely accusing Black people in retail stores of stealing, or to call the police on a group of Black youth and falsely state they have a gun.”
— “(He) once joked about the Holocaust, saying ‘nothing is better than throwing some Hebrews on the fire.’ ”
We were sick at the thought of including those statements here. They are horrific, vile, beyond redemption.
But looking away is the last thing we can afford to do in this moment.
Garrison previously wrote that he was “interested in exploring how this still lovely county and its rich conservative heritage and traditions have come under the sway of an aggressive, and it seems to me, out-of-control liberalism.”
After his identity and his past remarks were made known, he defended his podcast by stating that he had “imitated a ‘Frasier’ style character while we discussed hot button topics and pushed the envelope with jokes.”
He must have watched a very different version of “Frasier” than we did.
And let’s make a few other things clear.
Garrison had no interest in putting his finger on the true pulse of Lancaster County. He wanted only to push buttons to foment hatred and violence. He wanted to use our values against us, to cleave us apart.
He’s right that this is a “lovely county” with “rich conservative heritage and traditions.” We embrace that heritage, and we welcome any genuine journalists who want to come here and amplify the voices of this county’s residents.
The greater the diversity of voices, the stronger we are.
But Garrison isn’t a voice. He’s pure venom.
The still-anonymous backers of The Lancaster Patriot wrote Tuesday that they “do not approve of or condone” Garrison’s views and thus are shutting down the project. They wrote online that they had hoped to bring “unbiased, conservative news with a Christian viewpoint in Lancaster County.”
That aim is worthwhile. But we have serious questions about what led them to associate with Garrison in the first place, if that was their aim. And their lack of transparency regarding their identities and reluctance to speak further are troubling.
This story, meanwhile, has elicited some local reactions we find perplexing.
Commenters on social media and LNP | LancasterOnline’s website ask why this newspaper put so much effort into determining Garrison’s identity, compared to its overall coverage of Matthew Modderman, who was arrested Sept. 14 in Lancaster city and faces felony charges in connection with the rioting and vandalism that followed the fatal police shooting of Ricardo Miguel Muñoz on Sept. 13.
Modderman is employed as a client services representative in the Client Solutions department at LNP | LancasterOnline. This newspaper has been transparent in covering Modderman’s case. Caroline Muraro, president of LNP Media Group, issued a statement early on that has been published widely.
The charges Modderman faces are serious, and if he is found guilty of criminal activity, it will be handled by the justice system.
But this is not a “both sides” matter in which proportional coverage is merited.
Garrison, originally hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, is a white supremacist working to sow chaos in Lancaster.
His comments regarding the death of Heather Heyer, the woman killed when a white nationalist drove his car into a group of anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017: People should “never brake for fat chicks.”
He once tweeted, “Ethnic cleansing is happening right now. We just have to become the cleaners.”
So enough with the false equivalencies.
We’re glad The Lancaster Patriot has shut down its operation and that the reprehensible views of its “future editor-in-chief” have been exposed to the light. It’s good news for the peace and stability in this community.
Norman Asa Garrison III is not one of us.
He is not welcome in Lancaster County.
Further, the LNP | LancasterOnline Editorial Board is not going to do as President Donald Trump did in Tuesday’s debate and fail to denounce — without equivocation or reservation — those who embrace white supremacist views.
When Trump faltered on this issue, white supremacists celebrated. That should serve as a lesson to us all: We can’t leave open a crack, however tiny, for people with such hateful, horrific and harmful views.