Albany Times Union’s Editor Rex Smith Offers Perspective on Raniere and His Newspaper’s Role in Exposing Him

Rex Smith, the editor of the Albany Times Union, published an editorial on Friday entitled Not falling for Raniere’s magic act

It reveals in part how much the Times Union did to end the reign of terror of Keith Raniere and his litigious financiers, Clare and Sara Bronfman.

Smith writes, “Since I’m the editor of this newspaper, I can decide what gets published here. But not too long ago, I wouldn’t have let you see this column without first getting a lawyer’s advice.

“That’s because I’m writing here about Keith Raniere…  who persuaded a lot of influential and wealthy people that he was such an intellectually and spiritually superior being that they should forsake their families and follow him. Within the organization he mysteriously labeled NXIVM, they called him ‘Vanguard,’ catered to his needs, and let him manipulate people, emotionally and physically.

“Journalists who truthfully portrayed what Raniere was doing as well as plenty of people who left his cultish band of followers were often attacked by lawsuits and threats of litigation. Some were financially ruined, others emotionally hobbled. So for years, as this newspaper’s investigative reporters uncovered details about NXIVM’s activities, I asked lawyers to read our stories before they were published to help us avoid tiny pitfalls that might have left us vulnerable to such abuse…”

Smith is right. For years, the Times Union reported on Raniere and no media outlet did a more thorough job of exposing this criminal.  In fact, I realized recently that it was the Times Union’s series Secrets of Nxivm that almost certainly caused Raniere to finally let Daniela [the Mexican woman confined in a room for almost two years] be driven back to Mexico by her father.

I believe also that the Times Union prevented hundreds, perhaps thousands of people from joining Nxivm. They provided a strong, credible internet record on Raniere that anyone reading it, with any sense of self-preservation, would realize was cumulatively a big red warning flag and know enough to stay away.

Smith points out that the Times Union published literally hundreds of stories about NXIVM, Raniere and his financiers, the Bronfman sisters.


In his editorial. Smith calls Raniere, “an egomaniacal flimflam man who somehow persuaded people to abandon reason and follow him.” and uses this image. Photo illustration by Jeff Boyer/ Times Union.

Smith points out that these hundreds of Times Union stories and, in particular, their award-winning Secrets of Nxivm series – which revealed a host of obvious crimes – should have “prompt[ed] law enforcement officials to take a close look at the group and its founder.”

They didn’t.  Not until late 2017 – after revelations that Raniere was actually branding and blackmailing women did law enforcement take action. Even then, it was not in the district where Raniere committed most of his crimes – the Albany area – but the FBI in Brooklyn.

Smith writes, “We don’t yet know why federal and state prosecutors didn’t act sooner. And we may never know what it was that enabled an average student to convince people he was one of the planet’s smartest humans, holder of insights that could elevate their lives, deserving of adulation, money and sexual favors.

“Perhaps our coverage yet to come will reveal those remaining secrets of NXIVM. That’s why we’re still at it.”

Underlying this perhaps is another message. The Albany Times Union did the job a local newspaper is expected to do – expose matters of deep concern in the community they serve.

Somehow, local law enforcement chose to ignore evidence of the crimes the Times Union exposed – and for reasons we may never know, never even investigated Raniere and NXIVM.  The editorial suggests there may be more crimes and that delinquent local law enforcement may yet have to do its job – in the matter of bringing Keith Raniere and his coconspirators to justice.

The present prosecution in Brooklyn is only the tip of the iceberg of the Bronfman-Raniere criminal enterprise.



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  • Raniere was able to convince others to follow him because he had several evil women building him up before the new person even met him. It’s called edification in Amway and other MLM scams. As I’ve said many times before, Raniere learned that principle when he was in Amway. If Rex had any sense, he would contact me to discuss it, because I emailed him the following:

    Scott Johnson

    Jun 2 at 8:55 PM

    I can tell you exactly why Raneire was so influential. Email, text, or call me if you want to know.

    Scott Johnson


    “But having learned what she learned about her father: about his relationship with Gerrilyn when she was underage, and that he had this affair that resulted in Joanna having a sister she never knew about, and that he was never anything that he pretended to be, and indeed, even decided to go up against her in court basically to belittle her and prove to her that she is a piece of crap”

    Kristin Kreuk was literally named in the same expose that exposed her cult leader of raping little girls. Along with a ton of other information regarding rape, lawsuit attacks, harassment and more. She was named in a lawsuit at the exact same time. She filmed this garbage while the NXIVM branding story came out in 2017 and would say a word. Are you remotely embarrassed by your hypocrisy?

  • Anyone who stayed with NXIVM after the 2012 Times Union expose is an enabler and perpetrator. Especially those named in the expose: Kristin Kreuk, Allison Mack, Mark Vicente etc.

    • NXIVM created a plausible counter-narrative that the bad publicity just came from a few cranks who wanted to bring down a good thing, and such information still wouldn’t have been readily available to those who didn’t go looking for it, particularly if they didn’t live in the Albany area and hadn’t been faced with it in their usual media. Plus NXIVM was actually pretty well exposed in 2003 by both Forbes and Rick Ross’ Cult Education Institute, so if you want to make hypothetical retroactive arguments, the Times Union also took about a decade to really get clued in, too. I’m not entirely excusing people who failed to inform themselves fully and overlooked warning signs, but I think that we also have to appreciate that it’s human nature to base a lot of our decision-making on what we glean from our social environments.

      And anyone prone to believing in conspiracy theories, for instance, could easily buy into such a narrative. And as we see here from quite a few comments on a variety of topics, that there are a lot of people gullible enough to fall for conspiracy theories, some while apparently even convincing themselves that they’re possessed of superior knowledge and reasoning.

      Speaking of the foibles of human decision making, Boeing and their 737 Max planes is an interesting case in point. Even after planes started flying themselves straight into the ground causing massive loss of life, and with billions of dollars and possibly the entire future of one of the world’s largest corporations at stake, they were apparently still in denial that their nominally rigorous systems had allowed a catastrophic engineering flaw to propagate – partly due to sales and marketing pressures.

      • But how could the members who knew about KAR’s litigious nature wrap their heads around the fact that he didn’t even ask for a correction or retraction, never mind loudly and swiftly suing Times Union for defamation? That’s what I can’t compute…

        • They weren’t thinking it through all the way – haven’t we all been in situations like that, where we can see in retrospect that we might have thought things through more carefully?

          NXIVM was also good at convincing and manipulating people, so that they wouldn’t or didn’t question things, such as even having a “module” to try to head off concerns that the group might be a cult. I can imagine that members were satisfied at the time with whatever representations were necessary, perhaps even such as that NXIVM would go after TU legally, and then the issue was sort of forgotten as time passed – it would be interesting to hear from people involved at that point, how it actually played out.

          As has been pointed out previously, the analogy of the frog put in a pot of water on the stove to boil, is an apt one. People acclimate themselves to things, and mechanisms of forgetting and even denial are at work as well.

          • Wrong. They chose to stay on because they wanted to. Those who spent a lot of time and money on the cult were stupid with low self esteem.

          • I’ve followed groups and scams for decades, and have kept up with the expert literature and research in the area. People who get involved can’t be easily categorized, nor just dismissed as stupid (they’re typically of higher than average intelligence, as exemplified by Dani) or weak – it’s much more complex than that.

            It also seems to me to vary somewhat from group to group, though there’s not specific research on that. At moment, for instance, Scientology, which in some ways focuses heavily on self-confidence and self-promotion, seems to be attracting more than its share of Dunning-Kruger types who have unrealistic high self esteem out of proportion with their actual minimal abilities and talents (Raniere is arguably himself an example of that).

            Research shows that people who fall for scams and cults tend, if anything, to be at a point in their lives where they are experiencing situational vulnerability, and may – but not always – have one or more of a cluster of predisposing factors. This excerpt from Apologetics Index gets to the point generally:

            Who Joins Cults, And Why?
            Is there a certain type of person who is more likely to join a cult? No.

            Individual vulnerability factors matter much more than personality type when it comes to joining or staying in a cult or abusive relationship.

            “Everyone is influenced and persuaded daily in various ways,” writes the late Margaret Singer, “but the vulnerability to influence varies. The ability to fend off persuaders is reduced when one is rushed, stressed, uncertain, lonely, indifferent, uninformed, distracted, or fatigued…. Also affecting vulnerability are the status and power of the persuader….

            People who join cults are not stupid, weird, crazy, weak-willed, or neurotic

            No one type of person is prone to become involved with cults. About two-thirds of those studied have been normal young persons induced to join groups in periods of personal crisis, [such as] broken romance or failures to get the job or college of their choice. Vulnerable, the young person affiliates with a cult offering promises of unconditional love, new mental powers, and social utopia.

            Since modern cults are persistent and often deceptive in their recruiting, many prospective group members have no accurate knowledge of the cult and almost no understanding of what eventually will be expected of them as long-term members.”

        • Maybe they didn’t know. Might not be something “ethical” Nx wanted known to its sheeple.

          Or, if they did know, maybe they would be afraid to make a stink, or even leave because of it, fearing lawsuits, especially if they were well know members.

          Either way, it is comically dense for those here to bravely say what they would have done, from the safety of this blog with KAR in jail.

          • You STINK of the beetle. Even anonymously through a blog.

            “Well known members”, helped give you away…

      • There was no plausible story. They were in a cult bubble. They didn’t care. How much proof do you need? All these women, girls, defectors etc and they still go along with his bullshit? Nope. These people are dumb.

  • “Smith calls Raniere, “an egomaniacal flimflam man ”

    In the “Music Man” all flim flam man Harold Hill did was convince people to buy band instruments, not join a cult.

    There is one last public service that Rex Smith and the Albany Times-Union can do for the long suffering people of Saratoga and Albany counties.
    Convince the New York State Attorney General’s office to establish a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the remaining members of NXIVM and the local officials who committed other crimes in NXIVM’S behalf.
    NXIVM only involves a limited number of Federal crimes.
    NXIVM also committed numerous state crimes.
    Any plea deal does not protect the members of the cult, even the defendants who cut plea bargains, from being prosecuted for state crimes.
    Many of the charges in the Federal indictment have corresponding crimes under New York State law.
    Crimes like sex trafficking, blackmail and extortion are illegal under state law and Federal plea bargains do not protect the defendants from being prosecuted again in state court.
    So Clare Bronfman, Nancy Salzman, Allison Mack and Lauren Salzman can learn that New York state does not tolerate massive criminal conspiracies.
    And double jeopardy does not protect these defendants or others from being prosecuted in New York state court.

    And New York has its own state version of the Federal RICO law.
    In New York state it is called Enterprise Corruption.

    New York Penal Code Article 460, et seq.

    Statutory Definition of Enterprise Corruption
    A person is guilty of enterprise corruption when, having knowledge of the existence of a “criminal enterprise” and the nature of its activities, and being employed by or associated with such enterprise, he or she:

    Intentionally conducts or participates in the affairs of an enterprise by participating in a pattern of criminal activity;
    Intentionally acquires or maintains an interest in or control of an enterprise by participating in a pattern of criminal activity; or
    Participates in a pattern of criminal activity and knowingly invests any proceeds derived from that conduct, or any proceeds derived from the investment or use of those proceeds, in an enterprise.

  • Rex Smith now pats himself on the back and with self-laudatory praise recounts the role his newspaper The Times Union had in bringing down Keith Raniere and NXIVM. If we are to believe his spin on the story, the noble crusaders of journalism fought the good fight, and despite all the threats against them from a politically and monetarily powerful group, selflessly tossed aside all thought of personal consequences and went on to win a victory for truth and justice.

    Does the name “James Odato” mean nothing to anyone? Odato was the actual reporter who did the investigation and stories that did their part in bringing down Raniere. And yet no one seems to remember the noble Times Union newspaper placing Odato on a leave of absence:

    As it’s said, “the soldier does it all, the general gets it all.” Apparently that goes for reporters and publishers as well.

    Think that maybe the Times Union had no choice? Odato is hardly an isolated incident. Does anyone remember the name “Andrew Tilghman”? Tilghman was a Times Union reporter who similarly took on a politically and monetarily powerful organization when he wrote a series of articles on sex abuse in the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese. And like Odato, was soon gone.

    • Jim, I’m so glad you brought this up. I had been thinking exactly the same thing while I read Smith’s piece. Smith is on a weekly radio show on our local NPR station, WAMC, called the Media Project. I think I’ll email in this exact question. But I doubt he’ll address it.

  • Yes, Frank, I think the main reason Northern district has to act, (aside from the obvious ongoing trial) is because you and the Times Union will justly and forcefully compel them -times like this you have to give thanks for good journalism 🙂

    • Hmm, I wonder what might have inspired a respected news organization like the Times-Union to publish a wacky photoshop lampooning Raniere as a ringleader in a circus? I have never seen that in the T-U. A nod to Frank Report perhaps?

    • What I’d like to see is an investigation of the non-nx players who seem to ya e been complicit… DA’s office, troopers, lawyers, etc.

      • seriously just one person from albany needs to get offa his ass ANDREW CUOMO <===wouldnt his request for an inquiry make it happen ……still expecting crickets since this governor isnt human at all

  • What does Nexivm mean?

    I think I know:

    Its a play on the word, Nexum.

    “Nexum was a debt bondage contract in the early Roman Republic. The debtor pledged his person as collateral should he default on his loan. Nexum was abolished by the Lex Poetelia Papiria in 326 BC.”

    “Nexum, in very early Roman law, a type of formal contract involving the loan of money under such oppressive conditions that it might result in the debtor’s complete subjection to the creditor.”

    Nexivm was Nexum,

    The debt wasn’t necessarily in the form of money. It was also the price of little Keith’s idiotic teachings.

    • It may be even more direct than that. I believe that nexium is actually one of the Latin declensions of the plural term for those subject to nexum – which in Latin would have been written as nexivm.

      The naming of DOS suggests that Raniere had some familiarity with Latin, and so he may well have gotten away with naming his whole organization as being that of his debt bondage slaves – and apparently no one picked up on it. L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology seems to have similarly enjoyed tricking his followers into using words whose real meanings they didn’t understand, sort of a variation of the old game that older children play on younger and more gullible ones, and apparently Raniere got into it as well.

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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