Investigative journalist Chet Hardin was one of the pioneer journalists who helped uncover the deeply disturbing secrets of NXIVM and laid it out on the public record. I was NXIVM’s publicists when Hardin was working the beat at Metroland, Albany’s alternative weekly – now defunct. I considered Hardin a true professional and an honest actor in the business. I attempted to give him what I thought was the truth at the time. I later found out Hardin was closing in on a truth I was unaware of at the time.The Alt published this excellently written insightful piece on Keith Raniere, his cult NXIVM and Hardin’s work.
Here is an excerpt:
For Chet Hardin, a former resident of Troy and news editor for Metroland, the area’s now-defunct news weekly, the story has become very personal. He’s seen people’s lives destroyed by what he calls the group’s “brainwashing,” their “abusive litigation” and their dedication to silencing and defeating critics absolutely.
While other local news outlets were covering Raniere’s business savvy and his training programs, Hardin was approached by concerned individuals about what they saw as a very disturbing trend: The success training group was being run as a cult, they said, people were asked to give over their possessions to Raniere, and radical brainwashing and therapy techniques were used that would leave participants convinced they were somehow personally responsible for atrocities they had nothing to do with. One woman was convinced she was responsible for the Challenger disaster, another the Holocaust.
A source provided Hardin with a report by New York-based espionage group Interform that detailed the bank deposits and financial history of cult deprogrammer Rick Ross. The source said it had been commissioned by NXIVM. Hardin called Ross and read him the list of transactions.
“He verified it was his account and that the report contained information about his own finances he wasn’t even aware of,” Hardin said. “He said, ‘They better get a good lawyer!’”
Around this time Hardin was introduced to former NXIVM member Toni Natalie.
Natalie was converted personally by Raniere after meeting him through his company Consumer Byline. After eight years of what she claims was full of mental abuse, she negotiated her release from NXIVM. But, in many ways, it was just the beginning of her relationship with the group.
“The story Natalie told me was just absolutely insane but she seemed so sincere. There was something about her that just seemed so true,” says Hardin. So he kept digging.