4 Min Read
NEW YORK (Reuters) - About a year before being charged with sending fake bomb threats to Jewish organizations, Juan Thompson was fired from his job as a reporter at the Intercept news website in a downfall he would later say left him enraged.
In the months that followed, he fumed in online postings about the racism he felt as a black man - from his former employer, from the police and from a white woman he dated.
And he appeared to dabble with a run for mayor in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, but failed to attract more than a single $25 donation in an online fundraising effort to get on the ballot.
"The white New York liberal media makes me vomit with their arrogant, patronizing, bigotry," Thompson, 31, wrote in an essay he posted online on July 7.
In a 5,000-word account, he described a racist smear campaign by the Intercept against him. He wrote that the outlet saw him only as "the token negro whisperer."
The Intercept initially was launched as a platform to report on the documents released by former security contractor Edward Snowden and describes itself as focusing on adversarial journalism.
"I now have a Korean sense of Han — unadulterated rage against bigoted bullies, in this case the white liberal media," Thompson wrote. "It's no wonder these places have so few black faces."
Five months before his July 2016 post, Betsy Reed, the Intercept's editor in chief, published an apology to readers for "a pattern of deception" in Thompson's work. He made up quotes and impersonated people, including Reed herself, using fake Gmail (GOOGL.O) accounts.
Reed's accusation would foreshadow a criminal complaint unsealed on Friday in New York. Prosecutors said Thompson impersonated a girlfriend who had dumped him and emailed threats in her name to several Jewish organizations around the country.
The ex-girlfriend was white, as Thompson underscored in a frenzy of messages on his Twitter account in the days leading up to his arrest on Friday morning, repeatedly calling her "nasty" and "racist."
He said she had harassed him and had threatened to kill President Donald Trump. The ex-girlfriend could not be reached for comment.
The couple broke up a few weeks after he published his essay in July, according to the criminal complaint. At some point he moved back to St. Louis, far from the Intercept's "fancy New York office (with free beer no less)" where he had briefly felt the beginnings of success, according to his essay.
He found work as communications director at the Gateway Housing Foundation, according to an online profile. The small St. Louis non-profit, whose mission is to help the homeless, condemned the bomb hoaxes in statement, noting its founder had studied Hebrew. Thompson worked there only a short time, the statement said, and was "released prior to this latest incident," without giving further details.
On Nov. 15, 2016, Thompson posted a manifesto on a fundraising website describing his bid for mayor to "fight back against Trumpian fascism and socio-economic terrorism."
His 10-point platform touched on themes from his work at the Intercept: police brutality against black people, the homeless and the poor.
"Now of course I'm not perfect," Thompson wrote in the manifesto he hoped would launch a new career. "I've made mistakes. We all have."
Additional reporting by Gina Cherulus, Joseph Ax and Angela Moon in New York and Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Cynthia Osterman