Airman accused of spreading white-nationalist propaganda is demoted but remains in military
By KATIE SHEPHERD | The Washington Post | Published: November 20, 2019
For years, Cory Reeves allegedly posted hundreds of messages on a secret online forum for white supremacists under a pseudonym. In now-public posts, Reeves appeared to swap workout routines and diet tips with his like-minded internet friends; he also appeared to paper his town with far-right propaganda, participate in white-nationalist group meetups and share racist memes.
All the while, the Air Force master sergeant kept his apparent role in the white-nationalist group Identity Evropa quiet as he served in the military in Colorado Springs.
But in March, anti-fascist activists in Colorado used a massive leak of chat logs to identify the airman. The chat logs, from now-defunct Discord servers, revealed how Reeves had allegedly spent his spare time spreading white-nationalist propaganda and socializing with other members of a group then known as Identity Evropa. The Air Force Times reported in April that the military branch launched an investigation into Reeves' alleged white-nationalist ties. In August, the Denver Post noted the airman was still serving at his master sergeant rank despite the 729 Discord posts, written between October 2017 and March 2019, that appeared to lay out his white-nationalist sympathies.
The investigation recently came to a head when the Air Force demoted Reeves in September but officially allowed him to remain on active duty despite hundreds of online posts linking him to a white-nationalist group. The Air Force Times first reported Reeves' fate last week.
"The Air Force has completed its investigation," Lynn Kirby, a spokeswoman for the Air Force, told The Washington Post in an email late Tuesday. "Racism, bigotry, hatred, and discrimination have no place in the Air Force. We are committed to maintaining a culture where all Airmen feel welcome and can thrive."
The episode highlights a growing concern about active-duty military and veterans joining the ranks of white-supremacist organizations. The leaked Discord chat logs, published by the nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot in March, led journalists and activists to expose members of the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps as members of Identity Evropa, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In his alleged Discord posts, Reeves discouraged people from using slurs and violent language, not because he opposed it but because he wanted to keep the Identity Evropa server "more refined." Under the username "Argument of Perigee," a reference to the orbit of satellites, Reeves posted photos of himself at Identity Evropa events, with a distinctive, often visible tattoo on his left forearm.
He claimed to be the only Identity Evropa member in Hawaii for four years while stationed there, before he moved to Colorado Springs to work at nearby Schriever Air Force Base. There, he joined forces with a more active chapter of the group, plastering parks with teal stickers branded with the group's recognizable dragon's eye symbol. Reeves held up Identity Evropa banners and signs in front of an immigrant detention center run by the contractor the GEO Group, according to photos posted to the Discord server. He railed against interracial marriage and shared memes of Pepe the Frog, a meme used as a hate symbol by the alt-right.
Reeves repeatedly referenced an "ethnostate" in the his alleged posts. He also appeared to mock people in interracial relationships, including his own family members: "We have little-to-no control over our family members," one post read. "My younger brother reproduced with a full blood Aztec...."
"Respectable, upstanding men of Evropean heritage shouldn't be engaging in sexual relations with women of other heritage," another post said.
Less than six months after he was publicly linked to the Discord posts, the Air Force stripped Reeves of his rank, reducing him to a technical sergeant and dropping him from his status as a senior non-commissioned officer. But his commander decided to keep Reeves in the Air Force, despite posts that showed him making racist comments and recruiting for a white-nationalist organization so toxic it had to rebrand when its secret message boards were outed, taking on the name American Identity Movement.
White-supremacist and extremist groups have long targeted military service members and veterans. In 2008, the FBI published a report warning about the tendency for white-supremacist groups to recruit active members of the military and veterans, often placing people with combat experience in leadership roles. The leader of Vanguard America, which the Anti-Defamation League identifies as a white-supremacist group, was a recruiter for the Marine Corps. A self-avowed white nationalist, Christopher Hasson, 50, a Coast Guard lieutenant and Marine veteran, allegedly plotted a mass terrorist attack this year to "establish a white homeland." Colorado ranks among the top states for white-supremacist propaganda, the Denver Post reported in March.
The Air Force, like each branch of the military, has an explicit policy banning its members from promoting white-supremacist groups.
"Air Force military personnel are prohibited from actively advocating supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes," the branch's instruction manual says. "Members who actively participate in such groups or activities are subject to adverse action."
Kirby told The Post that Air Force commanders have several disciplinary actions to choose from when an airman is found to violate that policy.
"When Airmen fall short of this expectation, they are held accountable," she said in an email. "Each case is evaluated based on the facts presented, and commanders have a variety of administrative and/or disciplinary actions they can administer based on the findings of the case."