Fox News Lauds Neo-Nazi in Ukraine With Austin Ties
Questions not asked: Why are you there? Are you a Nazi?
By Kit O’Connell, Fri., March 18, 2022
Paul Gray, a white supremacist originally from Tyler and active in Austin during the Trump presidency, is being lauded by Fox News after volunteering to fight Russian invaders in Ukraine. During a March 1 appearance in a segment titled "Former American paratrooper joins fight in Ukraine," Fox reporters praised Gray as a veteran volunteering to fight on behalf of Ukraine but neglected to mention his violent history.
Despite Fox protecting Gray's identity by using only his first name, he was easily recognizable to extremism researchers like Michael Edison Hayden, senior investigative reporter and spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center. "They elect not to report his full name and don't even stop to ask why he might already be in Ukraine," Hayden told the Chronicle. "They just hope that the audience doesn't ask any questions because then Fox will be forced to dig deeper into an uncomfortable story about our problems with radicalization here at home." Reports published by KETK, Tyler's Fox affiliate, did use Gray's full name and further identified him as an American citizen who's owned a gymnasium and reportedly "been an influence on the Ukrainian community."
During the early years of the Trump presidency, especially 2017, Gray took part in street battles and helped organize racist events in Texas. In his most active years, he organized marches with white supremacist organizations such as the Nazi group Traditionalist Workers Party, which was active from 2013 to 2018, and Atomwaffen Division, a Texas-based terrorist neo-Nazi group linked to several murders. Along with Ken Reed, leader of the hate group White Lives Matter, Gray organized a June 17, 2017, rally at the Texas Capitol called "Tomorrow Belongs to Texas," attended by about two dozen white nationalists.
That event was sponsored by state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, who later told the Dallas Morning News that organizers lied to obtain his sponsorship, claiming they were a veterans' group. Also in June 2017, Gray and three other white supremacists assaulted activists outside the controversial (now defunct) east Austin Blue Cat Cafe, which was regularly targeted by anti-gentrification protests. Gray defended the cafe on behalf of his sister, Rebecca, the owner of the business and a guest on infowars.com. He worked as a security guard in the Austin area during this time.
Gray also teamed up for a time with Patriot Front, one of the most active white nationalist groups in the U.S., where he helped other veterans provide combat training. He also participated in Patriot Front's attempted disruption at the Houston Anarchist Bookfair, held at a community center in September 2017. Participants blocked the doors to prevent Patriot Front members from assaulting people inside. (This reporter was there to deliver a talk on the history and tactics of modern antifascism.) Gray moved to Ft. Collins, Colo., in 2018 and then to Ukraine sometime after that. Where he got the money to open a gym is unknown.
"It's a basic question of doing due diligence and background work to figure out what a person is doing there in the first place, because I just don't know many people that are out building gyms in Eastern Europe," noted Hayden. White nationalist groups have sent members to the region for training, and some even traveled there to hide out from legal charges (though there's no indication that applies to Gray). Hayden compared Gray's case to members of the Rise Above Movement, an MMA-obsessed white supremacist gang that sent members to the region to train with neo-Nazi paramilitary groups and compete in fighting tournaments. "This is something that's happened periodically over the last few years, because these are areas that are rife with conflict, making them hotbeds for this kind of activity," Hayden said. "We have obviously seen, really since the start of the alt-right era ... a lot of American white supremacists going to Eastern Europe for a number of different purposes. You should immediately ask questions as to why this person is there."
Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.