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.
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.