Yesterday, I posted Toni Natalie’s Complete Statement at Clare Bronfman’s Sentencing Hearing.
Longtime readers of this publication know I have criticized Toni on occasion, particularly shortly after the trial of Keith Alan Raniere concluded last year.
While I do not agree with everything Toni has done or said, I think, now that the battle is won, it is important to acknowledge that she played an important role in the takedown of Nxivm.
Toni Natalie knew Keith Raniere in the 1990s before Nxivm was created and Raniere’s Consumers’ Buyline was still in operation. She left in 1998 when Nxivm was just beginning and after Consumers’ Buyline went belly up.
She wrote a book about her experiences with Raniere called, “The Program: Inside the Mind of Keith Raniere and the Rise and Fall of Nxivm.”
She was indisputably one of the first enemies of Keith Raniere, after a stint as his lover.
To her credit, she spoke out against him, notably quoted in the 2003 Forbes Magazine Story Cult of Personality, that had a lasting impact on Raniere and Nxivm [then called Executive Success Programs].
Until that story came out, Executive Success Programs was doing well. That story was the first controversy for the company. The Forbes story was a cover story and widely read.
After the Forbes story and through the years, Natalie continued to be available to the media – such as the Albany Times Union and the New York Post. She participated in Jim Odato’s searing expose, “Secrets of Nxivm” that appeared in the Times Union in 2012.
While these stories failed to prompt the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York to take action, the internet record they created undoubtedly dissuaded hundreds, maybe thousands of people from joining Nxivm. And kept Raniere from expanding as he hoped and was poised to do with Bronfman millions.
Natalie helped create the public [internet] record which exposed Raniere’s darkness. She was one of the first, along with Rick Ross, who criticized Raniere whenever they were called by the media.
In those early days, there was only Toni Natalie, Rick Ross, then came Joe O’Hara. Then, in 2009, the Nxivm 9 left and Barbara Bouchey and Susan Dones were part of the opposition.
Heidi Hutchinson, who lost her sister, who was raped earlier by Raniere, to suicide or possibly murder, joined in the fight; she was the one who revealed Raniere’s pedophilia to the Times Union. Toni worked with Heidi to help get the story out.
No one can track what this really did. How many people who were approached by Nxivm recruiters to take the courses and who did an online search and found Toni Natalie or Rick Ross calling it a cult -and stayed away – is hard to measure.
We do know that Nxivm had a hard time recruiting in the USA and had to shift its energy to Mexico, where they don’t read much of the American media online.
During that time, reporters like Jim Odato and Chet Hardin and blogger John Tighe published many stories about the dark side of Raniere.
Still, it was not enough to stop them. After Tighe was arrested and Odato was sued by Nxivm, there was silence in the media about Nxivm.
In 2015, I began the Frank Report, and for a time I was the only one writing about Raniere or Nxivm. Still, nothing happened. Then in May 2017, Catherine Oxenberg contacted me to tell me her daughter was branded as a slave in a secret subgroup of Nxivm called DOS. With the help of Sarah Edmondson, Mark Vicente and others, I was able to break the branding story. This breakthrough helped crater the cult and hundreds left.
The New York Times picked up the story four months later and that prompted the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of NY to begin their investigation which ultimately led to the conviction of Raniere and others.
While some of Natalie’s claims in her book have been disputed, one thing not in dispute is that she was an enemy of Raniere’s and she fought back publicly and was available to anyone who wanted to fight him. She was a pioneer in the fight and whether she relished that fight and provoked it at times – or like so many others who came to the fight reluctantly – she had to fight or be destroyed – she nevertheless did fight.
As for Raniere, he certainly considered Natalie one of the top three or four people he hoped to destroy. She might have even been the one he hated the most and the longest.
When I was a consultant in 2007- Raniere had three people he wanted to destroy, Ross, O’Hara, and Natalie. And this was nine years after Natalie left him.
In her book, Natalie gives three reasons for the ultimate downfall of Raniere: “The Internet, a mother’s love, and Frank Parlato.”
As to the mother, she is referring to Catherine Oxenberg, who fought valiantly to get her daughter away from Raniere.
The reference to me is my work through the Frank Report, in working with and encouraging defectors, and with reporters in the mainstream media to enlarge the story – starting with the NY Times.
As for the first of her three credits, it was Natalie herself who had a big role in exposing Raniere on that permanent record called the internet. I know when I first began reporting on Raniere, I depended on the internet record to build my case against him. Natalie was all over the internet and was a primary source for Raniere’s vileness.
The breakthrough for me was the branding and blackmail story. In fact, I recall calling Toni and telling her about it – only moments after I got the call from Catherine Oxenberg telling me about the horrific practices of DOS by the increasingly demented Keith Raniere.
Both Toni and I knew at once that not only was it likely to be true – but if it was true – this would be the undoing of the man who had tried to destroy her for almost two decades and more recently had tried to destroy me.
While Toni suggests that Clare or Keith might still come after her and I can’t rule it out, I think they will be pretty tied up over the next several years – about 81 months for Clare and probably for his lifetime for the man who hated her so much.
I think Toni can relax a little. Though she most likely has one more performance to make – at the sentencing of Keith Raniere.
Then, perhaps she can move on with her life as he goes on with his life in prison.