Neo-Nazis respond to media skepticism about Sanford patrols by offering up a questionable source

Earlier this week, I looked at media coverage of claims by a neo-Nazi group that they were patrolling Sanford, Fla., in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing.

At the time, local police said they had no evidence that the National Socialist Movement was active in the area — though that wasn’t reflected in many reports, which seized on the group’s claim that its armed members were making the rounds.

There is now evidence that the NSM has two volunteers in Sanford, but there is also new reason to be skeptical of the nature of the group’s presence and the information it’s providing to the press.

The Miami New Times, which was first to pass along the NSM’s claims, published a new story Wednesday that includes a photo of two people holding an NSM flag in Sanford.

“Attacked from across the political spectrum for exaggerating their ‘armed patrols’ in Sanford, neo-Nazis have fired back — with pictures of two people holding a Nazi flag in the central Florida town,” the story reports.

“No guns,” it continues. “Virtually no proof to back up their claims there are ‘ten to 20 people’ in the area.”

The Independent in the U.K. also published a story Thursday wherein a writer rides along with an NSM patrol.

This is where things get a bit strange.

Both articles include a photo of the same man holding the same NSM flag. Both stories say their source is a 33 year-old man who arrived in Sanford from his home in Hernando County, Fla.

The problem is that the NSM member in The Independent story is identified as “Antony Antonio,” while the man quoted in the New Times article offered the name “Anthony Rushford.”

Is the same guy giving out different names to media organizations? I can understand why he may not want to use his real name, but he apparently isn’t being forthright with media about his identity.

To its credit, the New Times follow-up story uses cautious language, identifying the man as “a 33-year-old Hernando County resident who gave his name as Anthony Rushford.”

I was critical of the New Times’ initial reporting and how it led to a barrage of other questionable stories. The second story by the same reporter, Michael Miller, contains healthy skepticism about the NSM’s claims.

The Independent simply states the man’s name and says the “heavily tattooed 33-year-old skinhead had driven two hours from Hernando County.”

From The Independent story:

On Tuesday, his “unit” of two men and a woman had walked and driven around Sanford’s residential neighbourhoods seeking to prevent “revenge attacks” on members of the white community. When they couldn’t find any caucasians in need of protection, the group filled their time by distributing leaflets.

… As of today, there are, according to the NSM, roughly two-dozen uniformed white supremacists “patrolling” the city in trucks and cars. Some (but not all) of them are carrying firearms.

Meanwhile, Sanford police are still issuing statements to caution anyone against thinking the NSM has a large presence in the area.

“The photograph shows two alleged members of NSM with a possible third (taking the photograph), at night at city hall and across the street at Veterans Memorial Park,” reads a statement sent to the New Times. “This by no means indicates a significant presence of the organization in Sanford.”

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