Freed From Jail, Once-Notorious White Nationalist Says No Interest In Politics

on March 5, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan.
Scott Olson/Getty Images North America

For now, at least, one of the country’s best known white nationalists is withdrawing from politics.

Matthew Heimbach, former head of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), recently completed a 38-day prison term for violating his probation after harassing a black protester at a 2016 Trump campaign rally.

The violation that landed him in jail was a messy four-way domestic abuse situation involving the former chief spokesman of the TWP and their two wives.

When TPM reached Heimbach by phone on Tuesday, a little over a week after his release, a subdued-sounding Heimbach said he was busy catching up on season two of the “Handmaid’s Tale.” (He told the Southern Poverty Law Center the same thing, by text, last week.)

TWP was essentially defunct, he said, and he had no appetite to resuscitate it. “I’m not involved in any politics right now,” Heimbach said.

“I’m just focusing on my responsibilities and duties. To my family — and God,” he added, chuckling.

This is a pretty low-energy downfall for an activist who has been referred to as “the next David Duke” and the “affable, youthful face of hate in America.” Just last year, Heimbach was a guest speaker at Charlottesville’s “Unite the Right” rally and a brawling fixture at other white nationalist events.

Despite their tendency towards violence, TWP’s leaders sought to frame themselves merely as the champions of the white working class — the voice of frustrated white rural Americans devastated by the opioid crisis, deindustrialization and big-money politics. A number of in-depth journalistic investigations poked holes in the legitimacy of this purported political campaign.

But TWP’s disarray truly broke into public view in March, when Heimbach was arrested at his home in the Paoli, Indiana trailer park that doubled as TWP’s headquarters. The embarrassing details were laid out in the police report for all to see.

The white nationalist leader is married to Brooke Heimbach, step-daughter of TWP’s chief spokesman Matthew Parrott. But he was carrying out an affair with Parrott’s wife, Jessica Parrott, and was caught out when his wife and then-spokesman watched them canoodling through the Parrott’s trailer window.

The scene devolved into chaos, with Matt Parrott and Matthew Heimbach brawling. After police arrived, Heimbach went after his wife, kicking the wall, grabbing her face, and throwing her violently onto a bed — all in full view of their two young sons, as Brooke Heimbach told the arresting officer.

Matthew Heimbach was taken into custody and charged with felony domestic battery in the presence of a child under 16 and one misdemeanor count of battery.

On the police report, all four listed their professions as “white nationalists.”

These sordid details prompted plenty of mockery in both the white nationalist community and press. Parrott denounced the movement, saying the “SPLC has won” and TWP was no longer.

More pressingly for Heimbach, the incident violated the terms of his probation for a 2016 incident where he shoved a young black college student at a Trump campaign rally in Kentucky. In May, he pleaded guilty to the violation of his suspended sentence, and was taken to jail.

According to Heimbach, his retreat from politics was not prompted by any great revelation he had while incarcerated, nor a desire to keep out of trouble ahead of his September trial in Indiana on the assault charges. He is just focused on his “responsibilities,” he said.

“Jail was terribly boring,” he told TPM. “Was basically just reading and praying and sitting there.”

Heimbach declined to offer any specifics on the current situation with his wife and sons, nor on the “work” he claimed to be doing.

Parrott told TPM in a separate phone interview that his new full-time job involved being “a single dad.”

“I decisively failed at my original mission which was to be a voice for working class white folks, and ended up in the middle of the most humiliating white trash spectacle of the year,” he said.

“I could not have possibly done a worse job with my original plan and I give up,” he added.

While Heimbach would only speak about the present, Parrott told TPM that he, personally, was “not just done for now, I’m done with politics forever.”

As for the TWP, it “exists so far as its been named in lawsuits and there are still legal matters to contend with, but that’s the extent of it,” Parrott said.

The TWP is among the white nationalist groups named in a federal civil lawsuit filed by a group of individuals hurt or attacked during the 2017 Charlottesville rally.

That is where most of the white nationalist movement stands almost a year after that fateful event: bogged down by lawsuits, unable to raise funds, facing jail time, fractured, de-platformed. In some ways, they still have political traction: the Trump administration is promoting policies they champion, like forced separation of immigrant families, and elected officials like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) continue to regularly tweet out racist posts condemning diversity.

“Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler has confirmed he is holding an anniversary rally this August, this time in Washington, D.C., just outside the White House.

But this year, Heimbach said, he won’t be attending.

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