In March 2010, right-wing blogger Mike Vanderboegh made headlines across the country after he urged his followers to respond to health care reform by breaking the windows of Democratic offices and then took credit after it actually happened.
Eighteen months later, Fox News has repeatedly featured the former militia and Minuteman leader as an “authority” on the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious.
In January, Vanderboegh was among the first to break the story that ATF agents had knowingly allowed gun trafficking suspects to take weapons across the border into Mexico. According to Republican congressional investigators, the operation was intended to allow law enforcement to identify other members of the trafficking network that for years has directed assault weapons into the hands of Mexican cartels, with the goal of bringing those cartels down.
But according to Vanderboegh, the failed operation was actually part of a secret plot against the Second Amendment directed from the highest levels of government (a theory Fox News itself has at times promoted). He has also pushed bizarre theories linking the program to Hillary Clinton not running for President and to the so-called "Cloward-Piven strategy."
Vanderboegh has been featured in two packaged reports by Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse, the most recent of which aired on September 27; the blogger was also cited by the correspondent in a FoxNews.com article earlier this month. Fox has identified Vanderboegh as an “online journalist” and an “authority on the Fast and Furious investigation,” leaving his extremist past, use of violent rhetoric, and propensity for conspiracy theories unmentioned.
Vanderboegh's extremism is no secret; he was the subject of an 1100-word, front-page Washington Post profile after he responded to the passage of health care reform by writing a blog post headlined: “To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW.” In the post, he urged his readers that “if you wish to send a message that [then-Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows.” As the Post reported in their profile of the former militiaman, “In the days that followed, glass windows and doors were shattered at local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York.”
The Post found Vanderboegh “unapologetic,” reporting that he told them “he believes throwing bricks through windows sends a warning to Democratic lawmakers that the health-care reform legislation they passed Sunday has caused so much unrest that it could result in a civil war.” Asked about an incident in which a brick was hurled into the glass doors of a Democratic office in Rochester, NY, Vanderboegh said, “I guess that guy's one of ours. ... Glad to know people read my blog.”
After the Post profile, Vanderboegh drew fire from the left, right, and center. MSNBC's Ed Schultz described him a “whacko,” while colleague Rachel Maddow pointed to how Vanderboegh's “efforts to inspire violent action around the country [are] apparently derived from his belief that he leads millions of people who think the same things he does.” Jonah Goldberg called him an “idiot” and a “buffoon” whose behavior “is simply wrong, reprehensible, and childish.” The Daily Beast's John Avlon wrote that the “parallels, intentional or not, to the Nazis' heinous 1938 kristallnacht ... are hard to ignore.”
Vanderbough, an Alabama-based blogger who reportedly "lives on government disability," has a lengthy record of anti-government extremism beyond his call for the vandalism of Democratic offices.
Militia Leader. In the 1990's, Vanderboegh gained a reputation as the moderate face of the militia movement. Identifying himself as a “colonel of the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment, Constitutional Militia,” Vandenboegh was often quoted in the media condemning terrorism and racist and anti-Semitic militia groups. He sought to distinguish such groups from his “constitutional militias” which he claimed “are first and foremost defensive formations.”
Leader Of “Extremist” Three Percenters. He is currently a leader of the Three Percenters, a group which claims to represent the three percent of gun owners who “who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act” but will instead, “if forced by any would-be oppressor, ... kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution.” Vanderboegh has suggested that those who tried to push the licensing and registration of firearms would be “proposing the next American civil war” because the Three Percenters “would kill anyone who tried to further restrict our God-given liberty.” The Anti-Defamation League has referred to the Three Percenters as an “anti-government extremist group.”
Armed Rally Speaker. Vanderboegh has also appeared at a widely-covered armed rally in Fort Hunt National Park in Virginia. In his speech, he told attendees: “Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary powers, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience. Vanderboeugh also said: ”We are doing backing up! Done! Not one more inch."
Speaking to the press afterward, he agreed that “more Ruby Ridges, more Wacos” would be the result of the government “pushing people like us any further back.” He also reportedly “suggested that an arrest at the hands of the federal government is tantamount to a death sentence, and that he would fight back in such a case.”
Minuteman. Between his militia activities and his more recent anti-government extremism, Vanderboegh joined the Minuteman movement. According to the Birmingham News, Vanderboegh was a leader of the Alabama Minuteman Support Team, which planned an effort to send 125 volunteers to the Mexican border in October 2005 to stop undocumented immigration (the group reportedly ultimately only sent “a handful of volunteers” to the border). The group reportedly “plan[ned] to use night-vision and Global Positioning System devices, portable seismic intrusion detectors and ham radios in their surveillance.” Vanderboegh later reportedly announced that the group was planning to “begin surveillance activities” in Alabama in order to “identify employers who hire illegal immigrants” and shame them into halting that activity.
Conspiracy Theorist. Vanderboegh's Fast and Furious conspiracies are part of a larger pattern. He has previously claimed that the Oklahoma City bombing was the result of “an ATF sting gone bad” and that the government “had advance knowledge of the bomb plot.” And according to the Birmingham News, Vanderboegh reacted to Marine helicopters flying over Birmingham as part of training exercises by asking a reporter, “Are they training to fight against American people?”
But Fox has repeatedly turned to Vanderboegh for commentary. In a July segment that included a Vanderboegh appearance, La Jeunesse cited the blogger to suggest that during Operation Castaway, Tampa's ATF had “knowingly sold guns to criminals” that ended up in the hands of Honduran gangs. But the ATF has denied those claims and the charging documents in the case give no indication that guns were walked. Vanderboegh himself has denied that he definitively said that guns were walked during Operation Castaway, while standing by his report that such activities occurred through Tampa's ATF office.
In this week's segment, La Jeunesse reported on a Fast and Furious story broken by Vanderboegh, then aired a clip of him saying that his story was “a testament really to the power of the Internet and the ability to network.”
La Jeunesse did not respond to repeated emails seeking comment about Vanderboegh.