How the NXIVM Sex Cult Defended Trump from Media Attacks
Keith Raniere’s women-branding sex cult had a media arm called The Knife, which published hundreds of articles and appeared on “Fox & Friends” defending Trump against “media bias.”
If you’re curious exactly how low the bar is to appear on Fox & Friends, the toadying talk show where President Donald Trump appears to get his policy positions, we may have found it.
Yes, the fact-averse place that’s consistently downplayed the novel coronavirus pandemic which has claimed 174,000 American lives and counting—despite one of their own hosts contracting the disease—once welcomed, and then gushed over, a member of NXIVM, the Albany-based women-branding “sex cult” led by Keith Raniere, aka “Vanguard.” The revelation is one of many contained in The Vow, a 9-part docuseries on the predatory self-help group premiering Sunday, August 23rd on HBO.
NXIVM operated a number of businesses that it used to control its members, forcing many to work up to 23 hours a day for no pay. One of these was The Knife Media, or The Knife. Short for The Knife of Aristotle, the site described itself on the NXIVM website as follows: “The Knife Media is a digital news outlet that offers news without spin and rates media outlets for their level of bias. The Knife has a team of 15 editors, writers and anlysts [sic] who are specialized in critical thinking, logic and the company’s analysis process.”
This “analysis process” was devised by none other than Raniere, a self-described genius who graduated college with a 2.26 GPA. “You know, we get the negative press, and I think I know where it comes from,” Raniere says in The Vow. “But the good side of it is, in learning about it and watching how it’s done and watching how it’s done to me, I was able to come up with a useful toolset that can really transform media, and that can transform how people interact with media—and the data within media.”
Former NXIVM members in The Vow allege that Raniere created The Knife in order to train his physically and psychologically-abused adherents against media criticism of the cult. One of these members was Mark Vicente, a documentary filmmaker most famous for helming 2004’s What the Bleep Do We Know!? Vicente says he was a founding member of The Knife, along with Rosa Laura Junco (daughter of Alejandro Junco de la Vega, the founder of Mexico’s REFORMA newspaper); Battlestar Galactica star Nicki Clyne; Smallville actress Allison Mack; and Jens Erik Gould, a former Bloomberg and TIME reporter.
“I was one of the founding members of The Knife,” says Vicente in the film. “So in essence, it was a media company and the idea was to analyze news for objectivity—or lack of objectivity. I trained a group of people, what we call analysts, in logic—or Raniere’s ideas. We would talk about the kind of bias in articles—the slant, the skew, the use of adjectives, basically talk about how objective something was versus very subjective. The idea was to give every newspaper article a rating.”
The Knife’s main objective, it seems, was to defend President Donald Trump from so-called “attacks” by the media. It published hundreds of articles accusing the media of bias and treating Trump unfairly. “The #NYT broke the story about the letter Trump’s legal team sent to #Mueller in January. It was dramatic and biased. Some of the subsequent coverage was more distorted—one outlet earned only a 3% integrity rating. Find out which one,” The Knife tweeted on June 5, 2018. (One month prior, Tesla’s Elon Musk cited an article by The Knife as evidence of his own unfair media treatment.)
On July 23, 2017, Gould made an appearance on Fox & Friends’ weekend edition for a segment titled, “Evaluating Media Bias in Trump Presidency,” video of which still lives on Fox News’ YouTube page. (Fox News declined comment for this article.)
“So your site is committed to determining bias in the media, which I think is a very cool concept, called Knife Media,” cooed Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth to Gould whilst displaying the Knife Media logo.
Gould touted Knife Media’s hazy “methodology,” developed by Raniere, which includes: “spin, slant, how logical is the coverage, and how accurate is the coverage.” They then assign a rating based on those four criteria.
“We actually have…a large team of analysts that are doing this every day on the news stories, and they use that information and then plug it into the formulas,” said Gould, adding, “We found the [media’s] Trump coverage in particular was especially biased.”
Hegseth beamed as graphics for CNN, The New York Times, and Washington Post flashed on screen coupled with their low so-called “integrity” ratings.
“[They use] words like ‘constant chaos,’ ‘infighting,’ ‘abrupt and angry,’ ‘warring factions,’ ‘floundering.’ These are words that are not measurable, they’re not based on data and facts,” said Gould. “They’re emotional, and they get us riled up and we get into that, but they’re not helping us get more informed.”
Central to NXIVM—and Raniere’s brainwashing of his members—was the idea of punishing people for showing heightened emotion, and viewing it as a sign of weakness. This was one of the governing principles of The Knife as well. “[The Knife] was to prepare people for any negative press that would come against [NXIVM], because they would in essence discard it for its emotionality,” Vicente says in The Vow. “If you reduce everything down to the simplest thing, you go from ‘a man raped a woman’ to ‘a man did something, there was a woman involved.’ When you take all the emotionality out, you have no idea what actually happened.”
Allison Mack was accused of helping run the branding/sex-cult sorority within NXIVM, known as DOS, and ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiracy and racketeering charges, which each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Nicki Clyne married Mack in an effort to dodge immigration authorities, and though accused of being in Raniere and Mack’s NXIVM “inner circle,” has not been charged. Keith Raniere was found guilty of the sexual exploitation of a child and possessing child pornography, sex-trafficking and conspiracy, among other offenses. In August of 2018, five months after Raniere’s arrest, The Knife cryptically announced that it had “ceased publishing.” Jens Erik Gould is still a journalist, and currently works for the Santa Fe New Mexican.