Here’s a wretched story: Juan Thompson, briefly a Chicago journalist, has been accused by the FBI of threatening Jewish Community Centers across the country as part of a “sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” a former girlfriend. Thompson was arrested in Saint Louis, his hometown.
According to the federal complaint filed in New York, Thompson, 31, and his unnamed girlfriend broke up last July 26. About a day later the girlfriend’s employer received an e-mail, purportedly from a national news organization, saying “she had been pulled over for drunk driving, and was currently being sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease.”
According to the complaint, the vilification of the woman continued and worsened, embellished by threats to at least eight JCCs. For instance, two weeks ago a JCC in San Diego received an e-mail warning it that the woman “hates Jewish people is the head of a ring and put a bomb in the center [in San Diego] to kill as many Jews asap. . . . Ask her acquaintances she hates Jews.” (Hundreds of other robocalls have been made to JCCs around the country in the past few months, although the FBI does not accuse Thompson of having made those.)
The complaint also quotes a Thompson tweet from February 24. It said the woman “even sent a bomb threat in my name to a Jewish center, which was odd given her antisemitic statements. I got a visit from the FBI. So now I’m battling the racist FBI and this vile, evil, racist white woman. I’m afraid . . . we know what happens when white women use the law to go after black men.”
I wrote about Thompson 13 months ago, a Bleader post that began, “Has anyone ever been disowned faster than Juan Thompson?” He’d just been accused by the website the Intercept of fabricating quotes, creating fake e-mail accounts, and impersonating other people, including the editor of the website. The site had described Thompson as a former reporter for DNAinfo Chicago and for WBEZ, but both media were quick to minimize their connections.
“He interned for us a few summers ago—VERY briefly,” tweeted DNAinfo’s Jen Sabella. WBEZ’s Ben Calhoun, the head of programming, said Thompson had been an intern for a talk show for four months and “the extent of his duties was minimal.”
In February of last year, Saint Louis’s Riverfront Times carried a long investigative profile of Thompson. It argued that Thompson might have done more damage than more celebrated media fabricators such as Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair because in Thompson’s time reporting is so much more rapidly (and carelessly) repurposed. A prime example was a piece he’d written for the Intercept claiming that, in an exclusive interview with Dylann Roof’s cousin Scott Roof, he’d learned that Dylann opened fire in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, after his girlfriend started dating a black man.
“Dylann liked her,” Scott Roof supposedly told Thompson. “The black guy got her. He changed. I don’t know if we would be here if not.”
“News agencies across the country were soon citing the Intercept’s exclusive,” observed Riverfront Times. But it turned out Scott Roof didn’t exist.