The neo-Nazi leader of a hate group under a sweeping FBI counter-terrorism probe appeared in a Russian television interview to denounce media scrutiny of his group and describe himself as a “family man.”
New Jersey native Rinaldo Nazzaro, 47, a former Pentagon contractor who is said to have worked with U.S. special forces, made the comments to Russia-24, a state-owned media channel that has been accused of spreading disinformation. It was the Base founder’s first public appearance since 2018.
The FBI has cracked down on the Base throughout 2020, arresting nine members, alleging they were planning domestic terrorism plots such as an assassination and derailing trains.
Nazzaro, who is believed to have lived in St. Petersburg, Russia for years, first founded the group as a way to corral online Nazism into a real-world insurgency. It has been alleged that Nazzaro is a possible Russian asset by sources familiar with his activities within the Base and in a BBC News article, a charge he has denied.
At one point the interviewer asks Nazzaro about the rumors which have plagued him.
“I’ve never had any contact with any Russian security services,” said Nazzaro. “This is just a popular American claim for all the problems in the country.” (Weeks ago, in an exchange with VICE News, Nazzaro also denied the charge.)
In the Russia-24 segment, which runs almost half an hour, Nazzaro remains defiant throughout, saying the many portrayals of the Base have mischaracterized both him and the group.
But the many charges facing members of the Base has left little doubt the organization was seen by authorities as a domestic terror group. The Base had ambitions of starting a “race war” and accelerating the collapse of the U.S government to create, it hoped, a white ethnostate from the ashes.
Do you have information about the Base, Rinaldo Nazzaro, or other extremist groups and extremists? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Mack Lamoureux and Ben Makuch securely on Wire at @benmakuch and @mlamoureux, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
On the other hand, Nazzaro, appearing on camera with an unkempt, bushy beard and baseball cap, is portrayed in the Russia-24 segment as a loving father. “I'm a family man, first and foremost,” he told the Russian interviewer as images of him playing with his daughters at a playground weave in and out of frame. “That's how I define myself."
In encrypted Base chats, reported on by VICE News and Motherboard for over two years, Nazzaro claimed to be actively planning for a race war. At one point, in 2019, while critiquing the death count of a neo-Nazi who killed two people in Germany, Nazzaro said “being technically proficient doesn’t mean you’re operationally proficient… that’s why training is key.”
The neo-Nazi leader standing inside a St. Petersburg holocaust museum. Screenshot via Russia-24.
Midway through the Russia-24 segment, Nazzaro was asked whether or not he believes in the Holocaust, to which he replied: “I don't know, I'm not really a history expert.” The film crew then took him to a Holocaust museum.
“We have a self-defense mission,” he said while describing the Base inside the museum.
The segment, which is tied to Russia-24’s 2020 American election coverage, spends a hefty portion of the segment on the neo-Nazi leader on the Black Lives Matter protests and the anti-fascist movement in the U.S.
With files from Greg Walters and Zachary Kamel.