State Department worker outed by civil rights group as a white nationalist placed on leave

Matthew Q. Gebert was part of a cell called The Right Stuff in Northern Virginia, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Image: The Treaty Room of the State Department on March 22, 2017.
The Treaty Room of the State Department on March 22, 2017.Samuel Corum / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images file

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By Abigail Williams and Corky Siemaszko

A State Department official whom a civil rights group outed as an alleged white nationalist had been placed on leave, sources said Thursday.

The news about Matthew Q. Gebert, 38, came a day after researchers from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch program revealed he allegedly used the pseudonym “Coach Finstock” on white nationalist forums and hosted parties at his Virginia home for like-minded individuals.

The two U.S. officials familiar with Gebert's situation who confirmed to NBC News that he is on leave declined to say when he left his desk or speculate on when, or if, he might return.

Gebert, a foreign affairs officer at the Bureau of Energy Resources, has not returned several emails for comment about his case and he does not have a phone number listed for his home in Leesburg, Virginia.

Hatewatch researchers were able to link Gebert to “Coach Finstock” by tying several Twitter accounts operated with some form of that handle to him, and by playing samples of his voice from appearances as “Coach Finstock” on white nationalist podcasts such as “The Fatherland” to people who know him.

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Gebert also was a leader of a Washington-area chapter of The Right Stuff, a network founded by neo-Nazi blogger Michael Peinovich, aka Mike Enoch, three sources told Hatewatch.

“[Whites] need a country of our own with nukes, and we will retake this thing lickety split,” “Coach Finstock” said on a May 2018 episode of “The Fatherland,” Hatewatch revealed. “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's wife, Anna Vuckovic, 38, was identified by four separate Hatewatch sources as going by the handle “Wolfie James” on Twitter, a profile that has been connected to the white nationalist movement, Hatewatch reported. Vuckovic denied the allegations when reached by Hatewatch. NBC News was unable to contact her for comment.

Vuckovic, as "Wolfie James," allegedly wrote blog posts with dating tips and parenting advice for white nationalist women and moms on The Right Stuff, according to Hatewatch, which said it retrieved some of the posts through internet archives.

Gebert graduated from George Washington University in 2011 and joined the State Department two years later as a Presidential Management Fellow, according to an alumni news update in GW Magazine, which is published by the university. The aim of the prestigious program is to “develop a cadre of potential government leaders,” according to the State Department.

But Gebert's post at the State Department is a civil service position, not a political appointment.

In July 2018, the Sludge website reported Gebert donated $200 earlier that year to then-Wisconsin Republican congressional candidate Paul Nehlen, who was criticized for voicing anti-Semitic views on Twitter. The donation is public record and searchable on the Federal Election Commission website.

The Hatch Act restricts State Department employees from taking part in some political activities while working for the federal government. And while it’s not clear if Gebert crossed that line, it appears he was aware he was risking his career by embracing white nationalism, according to the Hatewatch report.

“There are bigger things than a career and a paycheck, and I don’t want to lose mine,” Gebert said on an episode of “The Fatherland” recorded in August 2017, according to Hatewatch. “I am prepared to lose mine. Because this is the most important thing to me in my life … in tandem with my family, of course.”