From the Editor’s Desk: Holes in Heimbach’s story
Journalism is a business of facts and specifics. When piecing together a story, journalists at their best try to include as many little details as possible to paint a holistic, accurate picture.
So when a source can’t readily provide information, no matter for what kind of story, be it a simple burglary or something much larger, a reporter tends to be suspicious.
Such a case came up recently when we were investigating the White Student Union.
The President, Matt Heimbach, has publicly associated himself with the University since the inception of his group, and administrators subsequently have tried to distance the institution, and rightly so.
And yet Heimbach persists that he has support of not a large, but core group of about 50 some students, but not all of which attend Towson.
Yet when Towerlight reporters asked if he could identify these students, Heimbach refused. He even declined to comment on which institutions these students attend.
Possibly Heimbach wanted to avoid exposing his group members to the same public ridicule he has faced, but when the media takes hold of such a story, it seems unwise not to allow others to show their faces publicly, particularly when you’re trying to demonstrate others support your cause.
Administration has also stated the group does not meet on campus, or at least attempted to rent out a large space since October, when Heimbach paid to use the Chesapeake rooms for a guest speaker “racial realist” Jared Taylor, whose premise was that diversity is not a strength. Taylor’s speech was meant to be the WSU’s first meeting, and was open to the public.
While the event did reach capacity, the large portion of the Chesapeakes were clearly occupied by dissenters of the group. Few spoke up in support of Taylor’s cause or the WSU. If Taylor’s appearance was indeed the first WSU meeting, where were the members?
Since then, Heimbach said the group meets off campus at restaurants that would not only allow them to use their space, but give them food and money. But again, he would not identify these restaurants, saying he did not want to publicly oust the anonymous businesses that are alleged supporters of the group. And in all fairness, if Heimbach did name these sponsors, the media would be at their doorsteps, demanding comments. I know I would. But Heimbach does have a steady cash flow, evident when he was able to rent out the Chesapeakes for Taylor, which cost $1,600, according to a previous statement by Vice President of Student Affairs Deb Moriarity. And who knows how much it was to fly Taylor in as a guest speaker and pay his fees.
About 30 group members, according to the Sun, also attended Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Not counting travel expenses, a student ticket is $40—times 30 is $1,200. So where does this money come from? Heimbach hasn’t said, but his antics have garnered national headlines.
Heimbach links on his blog to the Council of Conservative Citizens, of which he leads the Baltimore subchapter, according to the CCC website, as well as the League of the South, both of which are classified by the Southern Poverty Law center as hate groups.
Heimbach is a young, controversial figurehead, and I would imagine it’s easy to capitalize on his position and reach out to other conservative leaders in the country. As the Sun reported, few in our generation share such far right-wing views. Heimbach would need support from others nationally, not just in Baltimore.
Of course, this is all speculation, as Heimbach has refused to comment, but connecting the dots is important, and as a reporter covering this group for close to two years in one form or another, I have used other media reports, Heimbach’s words and my own observations to formulate theories—and right now, I’m only sure of one thing: Heimbach isn’t representing his group well.
No matter if he gained 100 more members, if he won’t be transparent, the public will take him with as a grain of salt, one student in 22,000 that holds these values, and as this rally demonstrated, overwhelm him.