A State Department official has been placed on administrative leave after being linked to a white nationalist group in a report by a civil rights organization, a source tells CNN.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff have been briefed by the State Department on the case of Matthew Gebert, a foreign affairs officer in the department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, after he was identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch initiative on Wednesday, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN on Friday. One of the sources said the committee was learning about the facts of the situation and why he had been placed on leave.
In an extensive report released Wednesday, Hatewatch alleged that Gebert “oversaw the Washington, D.C.-area chapter of a white nationalist organization, hosted white nationalists at his home and published white nationalist propaganda online.” According to the report, Gebert used a pseudonym to express “a desire to build a country for whites only.”
“That’s all that we need. We need a country founded for white people with a nuclear deterrent. And you watch how the world trembles,” Gebert, speaking as “Coach Finstock,” reportedly said on a white nationalist podcast in May 2018. Hatewatch claims it has matched Gebert to the pseudonyms he used online.
The report said that in August 2017, on that same podcast, “Coach Finstock” said he was prepared to lose his career for the cause of white nationalism.
Attempts by CNN to reach Gebert were unsuccessful. Hatewatch also said in the report that the group’s investigators had been unable to speak to him.
According to three sources in the group’s report, Gebert – again under the name of “Coach Finstock” – helped lead the local chapter of “The Right Stuff.” That organization has been identified as a white nationalist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Gebert joined the State Department in 2013, during President Barack Obama’s administration, as a “presidential management fellow,” according to an alumni magazine from his alma mater George Washington University. According to the program’s website, it “attracts and selects the best candidates possible, but is really designed with a more narrow focus - developing a cadre of potential government leaders.”
A State Department spokesperson confirmed that Gebert is an employee, but the department would not confirm whether he had been placed on leave.
“We just are not able to confirm suspensions from this podium,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Thursday during a department news briefing.
Reached for comment on the report on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, told CNN, “White supremacy and all forms of bigotry or racism are completely unacceptable and do not belong in our government.”
“Lead Republican McCaul would expect the State Department to hold accountable any employee determined to engage in that type of reprehensible behavior,” the Texas Republican’s spokesperson said.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “very concerned” about the the Southern Poverty Law Center report.
“It’s very dangerous to have anyone with these kind of racist and extreme views in a position of power where they could end up using it, with bias, against anyone in the agency or outside it,” Meeks said. “It’s important to fight back against hateful rhetoric to make sure we don’t have more people in power who use their positions for ill will.”
The office of Sen. James Risch, the Idaho Republican who leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declined to comment on Wednesday.
CNN’s Nicole Gaouette and Manu Raju contributed to this report.