How a black man ‘outsmarted’ a neo-Nazi group and became their new leader

To understand how Stern came to overtake Schoep’s organization, you first must understand how the Michigan neo-Nazi came to find the California activist.

Stern says that while serving prison time in Mississippi for mail fraud, he formed a relationship with his cellmate and onetime Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Edgar Ray Killen. The KKK leader had been convicted in the “Mississippi Burning” killings of three civil rights workers. Though Killen regularly called Stern a racial slur, he nevertheless granted his cellmate power of attorney over his life story and estate.

Stern was paroled from prison in 2011. In 2016, he used his legal discretion to dissolve the Klan organization that Killen once led. That was his first successful infiltration, and the lore of Stern’s relationship with the KKK leader is what Stern says first drew Schoep in.

In 2014, Schoep called Stern to inquire about his relationship with Killen, the activist said. Schoep asked to see the man’s prison ID card and said Stern was the first black man his organization had reached out to since Malcolm X. Stern said he searched Schoep’s name, discovered he was a white supremacist, then arranged for the two to meet in California for a small race-relations summit.

The two fostered a strange kind of relationship, Stern said.

Schoep and Stern remained firmly entrenched in their political camps, he said, fundamentally opposed to what the other represents. But they also engaged in regular debate: about the Holocaust, the ugliness of the Nazi swastika, the fallibility of Schoep’s white-nationalist ideals and, most critically, the fate of his hate group.

The goal, Stern claims, was always to try to change Schoep’s mind.

“From day one, I always told him: ‘I don’t agree with you; I don’t like you,’ ” Stern said. “I talked to him because I wanted to hope to change him.”

Stern did not change Schoep’s beliefs.

But according to Stern’s version of recent events, he was able to accomplish the next best thing.

In early 2019, Stern said Schoep came to him for legal advice on the lawsuit, which was filed in 2017 by a Charlottesville counterprotester against NSM and other white-nationalist groups that attended the Unite the Right rally.

Schoep seemed “rattled,” Stern said, and began talking about making a change. “I was hoping he was talking about his ideology,” Stern said.

Instead, Stern said the white-nationalist leader called NSM an “albatross hanging around his neck” and said he was looking for ways to get out. He still held the same beliefs, Stern said, but he was ready to cut ties with NSM and start a new organization because he felt underappreciated by his followers and left out of the mainstream white-nationalist movement that had swept the country in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

Schoep was concerned about the repercussions of the Charlottesville lawsuit and the legal bills he was shouldering, Stern said, and he confided in the California activist as he sought solutions.

“I saw a crack in that armor,” Stern said.

So he encouraged Schoep to get a fresh start by handing Stern the control of the Detroit-based organization and website.

Schoep said yes.

“He knew that he had the most vulnerable, the most loose-cannon members that they had ever had in the organization,” Stern said. “He realized somebody was going to commit a crime, and he was going to be held responsible for it.”

Stern says he’s preparing for what comes next and is seeking guidance from Jewish leaders. He said he does not plan to dissolve the corporation because he doesn’t want Schoep’s followers, or others in the white-nationalist movement, to reincorporate it.

Stern admits his plans for the website are still evolving, but his primary goal is to offer it as a reclaimed space to Jewish organizations that could help him educate NSM’s followers on the history of the Holocaust.

“Everything is out in the open,” Stern said. “My plans and intentions are not to let this group prosper. It’s my goal to set some hard records right.”

Schoep took control of NSM in 1994 and was responsible for growing its membership and brand as an organization of Holocaust deniers and Adolf Hitler acolytes. The group maintains a website that draws in millions of visitors from around the world, Stern said, and has organized public rallies across the county.

The group, whose members wear SS-like uniforms that mirror those worn in Nazi Germany, was founded under a different name in 1974 by two former officials of the American Nazi Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Signing over leadership of an organization this old is the equivalent of a death sentence in the white-nationalist movement,” said Keegan Hankes, an SPLC research analyst. “It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen since I started tracking these things five years ago.”

Several of the people listed on the NSM website as leaders within the organization did not respond to a request for comment from The Post on Friday. One man, who identifies himself as SS Capt. Harry L. Hughes III and is listed as the public relations director for NSM, said in an email that he is “not involved in the NSM’s legal affairs” and was “not at liberty to discuss anything, until Commander Schoep personally makes a statement.”

“Just like you and the rest of the media, I’m waiting in suspense, too,” Hughes added.

Matthew Heimbach, a leading white-nationalist figure who briefly served last year as the organization’s community outreach person, told the Associated Press that there has been conflict between NSM’s leaders, including Schoep, and its membership. Heimbach estimated the group had 40 dues-paying members last year.

The biggest challenge the group has faced, Hankes said, was being outshone by the more refined efforts of new alt-right leaders such as Richard Spencer. There was tension within the organization about the need for a shift to a less violent, less explicit brand of neo-Nazism, he said.

“A lot of these groups see [NSM] as extremely detrimental to anything regarding identity politics,” Hankes said.

Stern told The Post that he and Schoep discussed this infighting and that Schoep expressed a desire to leave NSM behind and start a new organization with less baggage.

Schoep offered a different perspective in his statement: “I realize that there is a lot of confusion right now, and ongoing legal matters prevent me from being more thorough in my explanation of events. Regardless, it is important for me to communicate that my actions are always done for a reason, and I would never purposefully damage the organization I have spent so many years serving.”

Though Schoep is no longer legally affiliated with NSM, he still faces the lawsuit because he is listed as a defendant.

“It’s definitely not good for him, and it shouldn’t be good for him,” Stern said. “You spend 25 years terrorizing people, you can’t rebrand overnight. It doesn’t work like that.”

Stern, who runs Racial Reconciliation Outreach Ministries, is still sorting through the legal intricacies his NSM leadership entails. He is listed as the attorney representing NSM in court filings, but a judge ruled Friday that he cannot be NSM’s lawyer because corporations are not legally authorized to represent themselves in court.

Stern said he is working on hiring an outside lawyer to refile his motion for a summary judgment on the lawsuit. He has also offered the plaintiff’s attorneys full access to NSM social media accounts, he said, because he claims to own those, too.

“Say what you want about me,” Stern said. “But I’ve done this twice now.”

They Still Like Steve King Here

The Iowa congressman has been saying offensive things for years but many of his supporters don’t seem concerned.

The Republicans in Des Moines and Washington are doing what they can to run away from and run off Representative Steve King, the Republican from my district, for yet more of his outlandish remarks over white supremacy, nationalism and western civilization — remarks that simply echo things he has said many times over the past two decades in my paper, The Storm Lake Times.

.. A Republican State Senator, Randy Feenstra, a professor at Dordt College with solid Christian conservative credentials, has said he will challenge Mr. King in the 2020 primary. Mr. Feenstra said he stands with President Trump but is not as “caustic” as Mr. King and will not embarrass ever-polite Iowans. Other Republicans are pondering primary runs, too, thinking that condemnation at the hands of the party elite may give them a rare opening.

Not so fast. Mr. King may be wounded, but he remains popular here.

.. “They can’t change my mind about him,” said Cathy Greenfield, a dog groomer adamantly opposed to abortion who lives with her husband, Larry, a teacher and auto body mechanic, in the village of Fonda just east of Storm Lake. “The left has been after him forever. I don’t think he’s a racist. I think he will be successful.”

.. She is not even prepared to consider Mr. Feenstra or anyone else. Ms. Greenfield trusts Steve King, now serving his ninth term.

The same goes for Sue Guntren of Storm Lake, who with her husband, Robert, proudly plants a huge red “KING” sign every two years in her yard along Lake Avenue, the main drag. “We’re sticking with him,” she said. “I’ve never really heard what he did was that bad.”

.. Eric Mosbo took a break from his Snapper dealership to reflect on his support for Mr. King. “I don’t care what the topic is, you have to be able to have an honest discussion about it. King was trying to defend the merits of Western Civilization, not white supremacy. Since only a snippet of his comments were used and the interview wasn’t recorded, the message was twisted around to project an incorrect quote. Reporting events and comments are hard work and the need to be correct is huge.”

.. The congressman has made lots of outrageous remarks over the years. He joked about immigrants being “dirt.” Like Mr. Trump, hebroadly describes Latinos as drug runners and criminals. He said he doesn’t expect to meet any gay people in heaven.

.. Most supporters write it off as “Steve being Steve,” or as the media unfairly being on his case. His son banned or ejected reporters, including from The Des Moines Register, The Storm Lake Times and other publications, from the congressman’s election-night rally, calling them left-wing propagandists.

House GOP Removes Steve King From Panels Following Comments on White Supremacy

Steve King was stripped of his committee assignments by fellow Republicans for questioning what was wrong with white supremacy in the U.S., and House Democrats took steps to admonish him.

House Republican leaders made the decision Monday night. He had previously sat on the Judiciary panel and Agriculture Committee, an important position for an Iowan.

Mr. King said his words were taken out of context in a newspaper interview, and argued that he was defending western civilization and not white supremacy or nationalism.

“Leader McCarthy’s decision to remove me from committees is a political decision that ignores the truth,” Mr. King said in a statement.

In an article published last week, the New York Times reported Mr. King said in an interview that he supports legal immigrants who fully assimilate to “ ‘the culture of America’ based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.”

White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said in the newspaper interview. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Two resolutions introduced separately by Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush of Illinois and Tim Ryan of Ohio would censure the lawmaker for the comments he made in the recent interview questioning why “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” are considered offensive. Mr. Rush’s resolution would censure Mr. King for previous comments as well.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Democratic leadership decided Monday night to move forward with a resolution by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.) that would formally disapprove of Mr. King’s comments, but at a lower level than censure. The vote is likely Tuesday, a Democratic leadership aide said.

If one of the censure resolutions is passed by a simple majority, Mr. King would be forced to present himself at the front of the House Chamber for the pronouncement of the censure, which would be read out loud by Mrs. Pelosi.

Mr. King has a long history of criticizing immigrants and supporting white supremacists. His latest comments come as the new Democratic majority is focused on President Trump’s comments about immigrants.

“It’s perpetuating this division in the country that we don’t need,” said Mr. Ryan. “We need to start healing our country. He’s done it enough times, in enough places, that I feel like it rises to the level of the House having to address it.

Mr. King was re-elected in November to a ninth term in his toughest fight in his stronghold Republican district, after top donors dropped him and Democrats put up a formidable opponent. He has already drawn a 2020 primary challenger, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, who cited Mr. King’s “caustic nature” as a reason for his run.

Twenty-three members of the House have been censured for various forms of misconduct, including for using insulting language on the floor, assaulting other members and financial improprieties. No lawmaker has been censured for comments made to a newspaper.

Pelosi says there is ‘interest’ in House in acting against Rep. Steve King

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday left open the possibility of House action to punish Rep. Steve King over his history of inflammatory remarks as the Iowa Republican’s recent defense of white nationalism created a firestorm.

King, who won a ninth term in Congress in November, lamented in an interview with the New York Times that the term had become a pejorative one.

White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in the interview, which was published Thursday.

King later issued a statement and addressed the issue in a speech on the House floor Friday in which he sought to walk back his remarks. He said he rejects “those labels and the evil ideology that they define” and proclaimed himself “simply a Nationalist.”

A number of Democrats are calling on House leaders to consider a resolution to censure King, a vote that would put Republicans on record.

.. King’s interview prompted a rebuke from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the House, who said in a tweet Thursday morning, “These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse.”

She was soon followed by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who told reporters in a pen-and-pad that it was “offensive to try to legitimize those terms.” But Scalise also praised King’s later statement.

“I think it was important that he rejected that kind of evil, because that’s what it is. It’s evil ideology,” Scalise said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also issued a statement Thursday evening in which he sharply criticized King’s comments to the Times.

“Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation,” McCarthy said. “Steve’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society. The Declaration of Independence states that ‘all men are created equal.’ That is a fact. It is self-evident.”

Both McCarthy and Scalise were silent in October when asked for comment on incendiary remarks King had made then. At the time, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), then the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was the only member of House GOP leadership to rebuke King. (Cheney had not yet been elected to her position as conference chair.)