A former Republican operative notorious for his connections to white nationalists has established himself as an opinion contributor for several national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, while writing under a thinly veiled pen name, BuzzFeed News has learned.
Marcus Epstein, who worked for former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo and founded a nativist political club with white nationalist Richard Spencer, has written more than a dozen opinion pieces for the Journal, the Hill, Forbes, US News and World Report, and the National Review over the past two years. His pieces, which mainly focus on the regulation of the technology industry, were published under the byline “Mark Epstein.”
In six different pieces for the Journal, Epstein is identified as an “antitrust attorney and freelance writer” and addresses topics including the supposed threat to conservative speech posed by Google and Facebook, and the ways regulation and antitrust might be used to ensure “viewpoint neutrality” and consumer protection, respectively. They make no mention of his past, which includes contributions to the white nationalist site VDare and charges that he assaulted a black woman, after racially abusing her, in 2007. (In 2008 in District of Columbia Superior Court, Epstein entered an Alford plea — a plea in which the defendant accepts the consequences of a guilty verdict without admitting guilt — after which the charges were dropped.)
The publication of Epstein’s pieces is the latest instance of the far-right, hyper-nationalist fringe becoming part of the mainstream conservative movement over the last decade. The Journal, which ran a piece from Epstein titled “Antitrust, Free Speech and Google” earlier this month, declined to say if it looked into his history before publishing his work.
"We know Mark Epstein as we identified him for our readers: a freelance writer and antitrust attorney who has written on antitrust and regulation for a variety of publications,” a Journal spokesperson said to BuzzFeed News in a statement. “We are not aware that he has written under any other byline."
In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News, Epstein explained his decision to write under a pen name.
“During college and immediately thereafter I struggled with alcohol, which led to — among other problems — a misdemeanor assault charge in 2007 which was ultimately dismissed,” he wrote. “I changed my name in an attempt to move past the media-internet driven outrage culture which refuses to allow people to move on with their lives. I submitted these articles under this name, with an accurate bio, and which expressed my honest opinions.”
In the years since the assault charge, Epstein told BuzzFeed News he became sober, graduated near the top of his class from University of Penn Law School, and developed concerns about the power wielded by big tech companies.
But Epstein, who worked for the conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, was a key figure in nativist and white nationalist political circles from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s. In 2006, he founded the now-defunct Robert A. Taft Club alongside Spencer and Kevin DeAnna, another leading white nationalist. Invited speakers to that club included influential white supremacist Jared Taylor and the journalist John Derbyshire, who would eventually be fired from the National Review in 2012 for a racist column.
Epstein also helped run Youth for Western Civilization, a far-right student group, founded by DeAnna and Taylor, whose members included white separatist and neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach. From 2004 to 2009, Epstein, under his full name, wrote for VDare, where his posts came with provocative headlines like “[Howard] Dean Is Right - GOP Is "The White Party." So?”; “It Depends On What Your Definition Of "Jim Crow" Is”; and “White Refugees And Culture.”
In a statement, Epstein denied that he had ever held white nationalist beliefs. “As a proud American of Jewish and Asian descent, I obviously have never been white nationalist nor held their beliefs.”
Under the name “Mark Epstein,” the former congressional staffer stays away from the topics of race and immigration. In his most recent piece for the Journal in June, he wrote that “antitrust law isn’t a panacea” and shouldn’t be used to combat perceived bias against conservative voices, as advocated by President Donald Trump. He made a similar argument in a piece for the Hill in 2017.
The Hill, which ran at least two pieces from Epstein in 2017, said that the editor who approved the pieces no longer works at the publication so it does “not know what vetting he performed at the time.”
“We would never knowingly post material from a racist writer and have no information identifying this writer as such,” a Hill spokesperson said. “The Hill generally posts opinion submissions from well-known writers but we occasionally post columns by lesser known individuals. We make efforts to check their backgrounds, as well as requiring them to sign paperwork verifying their identities, backgrounds and the absence of conflicts of interest.”
Epstein also coauthored at least four op-eds in the Journal, Forbes, and US News and World Report with Michigan State University law professor Adam Candeub, who represented Taylor in a lawsuit against Twitter. US News did not respond to a request for comment, while Forbes said it had taken down Candeub and Epstein’s post for further review.
“Epstein appeared on our platform without permission as a co-author on one of our contributor’s posts,” a Forbes spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, noting that he was never an authorized contributor. “Forbes guidelines explicitly prohibit adding co-authors without permission.”
The editor of National Review, which published a piece from Epstein in 2017, did not respond to a request for comment.
In an email, Candeub declined to say if he was aware of Epstein’s past.
“I can only say that the Mark Epstein whom I know is a brilliant antitrust lawyer and superb writer,” he wrote. “We share an interest in the market power of big tech.”