Far-right blogger Chuck C. Johnson is reportedly helping pick members of President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. According to Forbes, multiple anonymous sources say Johnson is working with Trump transition team members — including Facebook board member and de facto Silicon Valley ambassador Peter Thiel — to help suggest and vet candidates. If correct, Johnson’s involvement may be a sign that the Trump team hasn’t distanced itself completely from its far-right, white nationalist fans, with whom Johnson is aligned.
The exact extent of Johnson’s involvement with the transition team isn’t clear. Johnson reportedly told Forbes he had “no formal role,” then stated in a later interview with blogger Stefan Molyneux that he had been “doing a lot of vetting for the administration and the Trump transition.” Forbes writes that he has pushed “at least a dozen potential candidates to Thiel,” including conservative net neutrality opponent Ajit Pai for head of the FCC.
It’s also unclear how close his relationship actually is with Thiel; Johnson claimed they had “only a passing familiarity,” though they had “some of the same enemies.” This was apparently a reference to Gawker Media — Thiel funded the lawsuit that ended up driving the news organization into bankruptcy in 2016, while Johnson filed a presently unsuccessful defamation suit in 2015. (It’s worth noting that the authors of today’s Forbes report, Ryan Mac and Matt Drange, also broke the story of Thiel’s involvement.)
In 2014, Gawker called Johnson “the web’s worst journalist,” pointing to a number of false or thinly sourced reports and vindictive attacks on, in particular, black victims of police violence. (He was suspended from Twitter in 2015, after tweeting a request for money to help with “taking out” Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.)
Johnson has also identified himself with the white nationalist alt-right movement. “This election was the first one where I realized I’m a post-libertarian and probable member of the #AltRight,” he wrote on Facebook in March of 2016. He appeared last year on the alt-right podcast Fash the Nation, where he discussed “race realism” favorably with the hosts. “I’m now identified as a white supremacist by all these crazy people on Twitter and elsewhere. It’s kind of funny, because first of all I think that’s somewhat redundant,” he said on the show. He later said he was “not quite sure what to make of the JQ,” or “Jewish question,” calling himself an “anti-anti-Semite” but “not totally philo-Semitic” either. “The ethnic stereotypes, the racial stereotypes, are largely true,” Johnson said.
The late journalist David Carr once wrote that Johnson was “not without some talent,” citing legitimate journalistic scoops and “a knack for staking an outrageous, attacking position on a prominent news event, then pounding away until he is noticed.” But among other things, Johnson once wrote that New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick had posed for Playgirl based on a satirical news article, and he contributed reporting to a claim that Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) had paid for sex in the Dominican Republic, an accusation that turned out to be fabricated.
Beyond his current news site GotNews, Johnson also co-founded WeSearchr, a site where members fund “bounties” for answering allegedly newsworthy questions. WeSearchr’s current Editor’s Choice section includes a DNA test on civil rights and writer Shaun King to “see how black he really is;” an expired bounty to hunt for “Satanic pedo tunnels” under DC pizza parlors; and a request to expose alleged infidelity by South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, in retaliation for negative comments about Donald Trump.