Some insights into Raniere, Clare Bronfman; Writer answers reader’s questions

An earlier post began: “Having evidently read several of my posts on NXIVM, a reader asks: How did they try to control your mind?”

Here are some of the questions the reader asked which I will attempt to answer:

Q: It sounds like you were allowed close enough to the inner circle to be able to see at least the sex-charged nature of NXIVM, if not the criminality.

A: I had a pretty good look at the inside of NXIVM Village and frankly my impression was favorable while I was there. I came to realize that Keith Raniere was having sex with some of the women (not all). Some of the women he had previously had sex with. As they got older he manipulated them into a different relationship – as he pursued younger women brought into the group for sex.

Keith’s sexual relationships with the women were not well known to the group at large. But at the time (2007) I would say he had bedded enough of them to make it impossible to be kept entirely secret within the village. Raniere did pull the wool over some of the women’s eyes by telling them to keep their relationship with him a secret.  

Q:  Were there other non-ESPians living in “company housing” like you were?

A: I did not live in “company housing”. At first – upon Keith’s recommendation – I stayed in Clare Bronfman’s horse farm in Delancy. I had the place to myself. After about a month they had some people they wanted to sell on NXIVM  (I believe from Mexico)  and I was asked to move out for the weekend.

At that point I thought it would be better to take a place in Clifton Park – to be nearer to the work and the people I was working with. I stayed in a hotel there at my own expense.

Later at the suggestion of Nancy Salzman I lived in a newly refurbished apartment in one of the NXIVM-owned houses.

As far as I know I was the only one who was a non-nxian living in their housing at the time. The accommodations were clean.

So were the people. Every person I worked with at NXIVM – and there were dozens – were considerate, friendly and respectful. It struck me that the followers of Raniere were good people.

Later I came to the conclusion that these (mostly) good people were misled – which of course is the secret of Raniere’s genius – his ability to (mis)lead.

Although this may surprise some people, I suspect that deep down Salzman is a good person, but she too has been misled, some might say is a victim of long term hypnosis. Salzman did not, in my opinion, have the desire to hurt and punish people that Raniere had.

Raniere’s desire to hurt others is not based solely on sadism, I believe.

It was clear that he was very frightened and extremely immature. His desire to punish was like that of a fearful child who had been often bullied and (having the Bronfman money) suddenly he has power and he lashes out at who he perceives are his enemies. Once he hurts them he enjoys it and it makes up for all the impotent times he was afraid and felt bullied and afraid.

He became  unbelievably cruel.

With the Bronfman money he could be unbelievably destructive.

I believe that the Bronfmans always wanted to do good. They had no appreciation of money or how to earn it. I think they felt a little guilty in having so much and having done so little. Maybe a part of them also realized that the money they inherited came from murky origins and was realized through selling intoxicants to people.

These were two sisters who at the start of their journey saw a bright path before them and after taking the NXIVM courses they thought it not only helped them but that they could help share it with others – perhaps revolutionizing the world; their money cleansed of its checkered origins and the lack of effort they made to obtain it – could be transformed into a tremendous effort to use it to rehabilitate suffering humanity.

They put their trust in Raniere and if it is true that he can hypnotize a person – he hypnotized them to adopt the grandest dreams.

The Bronfman sisters’ dream was to heal the world.

Along the way as we shall see the means did not justify the ends

Had they a little more practical knowledge and maturity they might have seen that their leader had not the moral purity or ethical values that he preached and that his own immaturity led him to do what even average outside observers would call hateful (not loving ) acts.

People say that Clare has become the hateful vengeful being that Keith became. I don’t know. Her actions seem to imply it. But you cannot always judge a person by their actions.

One has to consider mistakes and miscalculations.

When I knew her, she was trying to live a noble life – following Keith Raniere – obeying him who she thought was the closest thing to God on Earth.

While she had a limited view of sacrificing comfort – or making an effort that involved spending anything other than money, she nevertheless was willing to work hard, and the more Keith or her or her sister were criticized, the more she turned to Keith for comfort.

It was Her and Keith against the world.

The press attacks gave Keith more control, not less – as one would expect as the press exposed his destructive acts and his ridiculous failures.

Clare was following a madman who she thought was a messiah.

He had her believing palpable lies – like that her father had caused the $65 million in commodities losses that Keith had advised her to make. And the more the press ridiculed her for it, the more Keith would comfort her and the more she was willing to give him money.

She was ready to give all she had and follow him.

And he was ready to take it too.

At one time she told me she even thought it was possible that her father had caused the real estate market in Los Angeles to collapse to foil their investment in a real estate deal that had gone bad that Keith had recommended. 

As for Keith, I tried to counsel him that the punishment he desired did not fit the crime of his opponents.  That was when I thought he was mature enough to listen to good counsel.

Raniere would dodge answering this counsel himself.

But his aides would burst into tears defending him – painting him as a martyr – who they fully expected would be assassinated one day by some evil person who would react to his pure goodness (much like Christ or Gandhi were killed). They had to follow Keith and that if they won against his enemies it would be a victory they could lay at his feet.

Q: Some of his lawyers perhaps (stayed at NXIVM housing?)

A: The lawyers did not stay at NXIVM housing nor did they seem comfortable with NXIVM. It was my impression that their lawyers did not like them. They loved the money.

There were about a dozen lawyers from four or five different firms working on various lawsuits/immigration and patent research and they took the money but held the group in low regard.

I think part of that low respect factor was the relentless badgering of NXIVM enemies and the fact that sooner or later they were asked to do something that was borderline unethical.

Ultimately the lawyers were stiffed on fees when NXIVM picked a fight with them.

At first I thought these lawyers didn’t understand the group. Later I realized that under Raniere the group was not seeking justice or fairness- they were looking for punishment, vengeance and also – to be candid – success in litigation as if that would somehow vindicate them as not being a Cult.

It was remarkable to see how Raniere manipulated women to work for his litigation causes – which they knew was unjust. Raniere made them feel sorry for him, Raniere – and not the victim of his cruel and ceaseless and childish hatred.

To be continued

About the author

Frank Parlato

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About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083