By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Make no mistake: There is nothing benign--or Christian--about the Christian Identity movement, despite the protestations of some of its adherents. These "true believers," as Cash calls them, preach that white people are the Israelites of the Old Testament, and that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan. They also claim that non-whites are an entirely different species from caucasians.
It could be the mark of a man who's simply trying to gain a genuine understanding, but Cash is strangely mild in his assessments of Christian Identity. "It would not be me to say these guys are wrong about the sources of the tribes of Israel," he says. "And I don't even care. That's not important to me. Where I get offended and pissed off...is when I see people using that in the pulpit to whip up hatred that turns to mass murder."
Cash's ambivalent statements about Christian Identity were what I found slightly disturbing about the man: You can't tell exactly where the professional distance ends and the personal interest begins.
All of his work as a reporter is marked by that blurring of distinctions. Cash has little regard for the constraints of mainstream journalism, and employs some tactics that many journalists, including myself, would never touch. His explanation for how he's obtained such extraordinary access to figures within the Christian Identity movement, indeed, would be no small cause for controversy.
That story eventually came out during my face-to-face interview with Cash--when he explained why he'd sold his stories to Jubilee.
Cash admits he basically misrepresented himself to Paul Hall, editor of the Jubilee, who evidently assumed Cash had an affinity for Christian Identity beliefs. (When asked about that, Hall dodged the question and launched into a rant about sneaky reporters who look for any opportunity to slam Christian Identity.)
"It was absolutely imperative that I had access and a quick education in this Aryan Nations/neo-Nazi movement," Cash says. "I was provided that access in many ways, from many different people. And one of the ways was the Jubilee. And I hope that doesn't give them any ill feelings toward me, but when there's 168 murdered people involved, all avenues and options are open, and this was one of them that I took."
Cash says he does not believe in the Christian Identity movement's ideals.
Several of Cash's friends and colleagues support him, saying he hasn't been tainted by his inside contacts with the far right.
Jeff Holladay, a reporter who worked with Cash on some of his stories for the Gazette, goes further. "You should dispel the notion that John Cash is some kind of extreme right-wing radical," he says. "The body of work is ample and abundant proof that J.D. Cash is not some right-wing apologist. In fact, probably they hate him now."
Cash claims they do. Though Elohim City once offered him the presidency of its all-white university--which hadn't been built yet--while Cash was undercover, he has since received death threats from figures on the far right, he says, and believes that some day, he'll pay.
"That's the way this deal works," he says, darkly. "There's a rule--and I broke the rule. Inside the movement, it's a death sentence."
In journalism, the penalty for breaking the rules--for printing conjecture, not facts--isn't so dire.
But if the Morning News' nightmare has indeed materialized in the form of some obscure out-of-town reporter with supposedly first-hand knowledge about the veracity of those sexy, top-secret documents, the newspaper would be wise to impose its own penalty--in the form of one more story that tells the whole truth.