Triangulating Matthew Heimbach’s role in the white nationalist movement has always been a complicated affair. The League of the South, the Aryan Terror Brigade, the Hammerskins and other neo-Nazi groups. He got into bed with all of them.
Then he got into bed with his partner’s wife.
Heimbach was arrested last week in southern Indiana and charged with battery after Matthew Parrott, his partner in starting the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), discovered Heimbach was having an affair with his wife. Police in Paoli, Indiana, said Heimbach attacked his wife and Parrott after the two confronted him about an affair with Parrott’s wife. (Heimbach is married to Parrott’s step-daughter. The familial entanglements of the affair are sordid when unpacked.)
The fallout was immediate. Parrott resigned from TWP and Heimbach, the most public facing member of the group, seemed destined for the dustbin of the racist “alt-right,” a movement that has fractured in recent weeks as high-profile individuals have questioned the movement’s direction, made public denouncements and called it quits. Heimbach, who was released after posting a $1,000 bond, declined to comment on his legal situation and, more importantly, how his involvement in a very public sex scandal has shaken the movement. According to movement associates who have spoken to Heimbach, he, too, has left the alt-right.
But this isn’t the only time allegations of infidelity have focused on Heimbach. Sources close to the Nationalist Front –– a lose collection white nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations –– have long reported stories of Heimbach’s indiscretions, though those sources say such stories are frequently overlooked. This also isn’t the first of stories of marital abuse, infidelity and strange bedfellows shaking the radical right, though never before at a time when the movement was experiencing such growth and reception.
As it turns out, the racist right has historically been a troubled group when it comes to the behavior of men. It is not an uncommon to hear stories of abusive control, tales of violence against women from men in the movement, even stories women being passed between men as if casual possessions.
In the early 1980s, Black and nine other white supremacists were arrested as they prepared to board a yacht with intentions to invade the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica, oust its black-run government, and transform it into a “white state.” He served three years in federal prison — a time he used to learn the computer skills he used to start Stormfront — and shortly after his release married Chloe Hardin, David Duke’s ex-wife. (Duke was also Black’s best man at the wedding.)
Ironically, Heimbach has closely mirrored Duke’s rise on the racist right. For both, their racist activism began in college — Heimbach at Towson University in Maryland, and Duke and Louisiana State University. In fact, early in Heimbach’s life as a public racist, efforts to compare Heimbach to Duke were frequent, though Duke’s role in the future of the white nationalism seems more certain given recent events than Heimbach’s.
There are other far more terrifying and tragic stories in the movement, though.
In February 2008, police in West Hurley, New York, found the body of white supremacist James “Yankee Jim” Leshkevich hanging in the garage attached to a home he shared with his 55-year-old wife Deborah, who was found beaten and strangled to death in the couple’s bedroom. Leshkevich, a prolific white supremacist blogger and radio host, detailed his motive in a rambling blog post titled, “I Caught My Wife Sleeping With Another Man …”
“We continued to talk, and my wife started screaming, started walking towards the phone, said she wanted an order of protection, and threatened to call 911 … for no reason at all, other than she was getting very uncomfortable answering my questions about getting caught red-handed in bed with the ‘nice man,” Leshkevich wrote a week before he killed his wife.
While domestic abuse and infidelity afflict every population, reports of such from the far-right are particularly troubling. It is a movement that largely views the role of women as a subservient to white men. Within the last year, as the racist alt-right moved steadily into the mainstream, some women have even professed their exclusive purpose in life to be mothers to white children, and nothing else. One Mormon white nationalist named “Ayla,” who maintains a blog “Wife With a Purpose,” issued a challenge last year to white women to procreate in response to census predictions that white Americans will be a minority by 2050.
Ayla’s suggestions take on new meaning when measured against the downfall of Heimbach and recent allegations that Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has been abusive. Last week, Hatewatch reported on a temporary restraining order filed last month in a Montana court room against. The petition, filed by Rhodes’ wife Tasha Vonn Adams Rhodes, alleged years of physical and verbal abuse often targeting the couple’s children.
“Whenever [Stewart Rhodes] is unhappy with my behavior (say I want to leave the house — he doesn’t like me to leave) he will draw his handgun (which he always wears), rack the slide, wave it around, and then point it at his own head, telling me my behavior has caused this,” Vonn Adams Rhodes wrote. “I filed for divorce a few days ago and am terrified.”