A Florida-based white nationalist group known for seeking publicity claimed Nikolas Cruz as one of its members, until an alt-right backlash caused the leader of the tiny group to back off the claim and blame the media.
Cruz is accused of killing 17 people and wounding 15 on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.
Jordan Jereb — the leader of a white nationalist militia group known as the Republic of Florida that explicitly advocates for a whites-only nation — gave multiple interviews to media outlets after the mass shooting, insisting that Cruz attended meetups with the Clearwater “cell” of the group and traveled to Tampa with the group at least once.
“I know with certainty he had something to do with us,” he told the Miami Herald. He told the Associated Press Cruz participated in paramilitary drills in Tallahassee, where Jereb is based, and told the Daily Beast that Cruz was a member.
But Jereb offered no proof, and told the Miami Herald he never met the 19-year-old.
Jereb’s eagerness to claim the suspected school shooter drew the ire of the self-titled “alt-right,” a group of conservative, racist activists, on one of its favorite platforms — Gab.
“Those of you calling me a “Fake white nationalist” Go f*** yourselves,” he wrote.
He called his initial claim that Cruz was involved in his group “a legit misunderstanding because we have MULTIPLE people named Nicholas in ROF.”
Despite Jereb repeatedly assuring a Miami Herald reporter on Thursday he knew for sure Cruz was among the members of his group “because I heard it from the people I trust my life to,” he wrote on the platform that the media tricked him into saying that.
“I got a bunch of conflicting information and I have not slept for like 2 days, And so when ((( They )))” — the parentheses are a common internet designation among white supremacists to indicate someone is Jewish — “call me up and ask me yes or no questions, Its easy for them to misrepresent what I say,” he wrote.
Since the post, Jereb has not answered calls from the Herald requesting comment.
Jereb’s claim left the Broward Sheriff’s Office puzzled. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that the connection was not confirmed, but his department was looking into it.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office, the agency in charge of Jereb’s home base of Tallahassee, told the Tampa Bay Times the group only has ten members, and Clearwater officials told the paper they have no record of an ROF presence in their city.
The Anti-Defamation League reports that the ROF has members in Tallahassee and South Florida, and identified Chris Cedeno, a Cuban-American racist activist, as the head of the Miami-Dad
e branch. Cedeno was arrested last year after charging at a crowd of anti-confederate flag protesters.