Rebel Media is facing a public relations nightmare, as its founder Ezra Levant went public with a blackmail scandal that has, by his own admission, cost the fledgling right wing Canadian media company “tens of thousands of [British] pounds.”
According to Levant, the blackmailers are a young couple from London. The two, Caolan Robertson and George Llewelyn-John, are disgruntled employees from London who were briefly employed by Rebel Media to record and edit videos for Tommy Robinson under Rebel Media’s banner.
Levant admits that in addition to hiring Robertson and Llewelyn-John full time with no background check or interview, he willingly gave them thousands of pounds before the blackmail even started.
After visiting their “squalid apartment,” Levant says he gave the couple £1,800 “for rent money, for that first month where [they] need rent and a deposit.” Levant says the two spent the money on “a luxury vacation,” and when they showed back up he gave them “another £3,500 pounds – this time for rent, and for furniture,” choosing to give them them the money indirectly through a mutual acquaintance to prevent their alleged mismanagement of his money a second time.
This is in addition to money Levant sent the couple via PayPal when they made “panicky calls in the middle of the night” begging Levant to send them “150 pounds or 300 pounds” to cover miscellaneous expenses.
According to Levant’s side of the story, he fired both men when they began moonlighting and failed to show up for work. Levant says this is when the real blackmail began:
“They were going to launch their own media company — OK, no problem. They were going to do it with a splash — OK. And say they were going to break away from The Rebel, and be truly independent. OK, no problem. But this was the key part of the threat — they were going to claim they left us because we were unethical, not because we fired them.
They were going to publicly allege that we were stealing money from our viewers. That we were stealing money from charities, or from other things we crowdfund.”
Levant even admits to giving them “tens of thousands of pounds” to persuade them to leave him and Rebel Media alone.
Department of Memes calculates that, based only on Levant’s recounting of the money in his video, he gave the couple at least £11,600. This seems a hefty sum, especially for a company that relies on donations from viewers.
The couple, Robertson and Llewelyn-John, paint a different picture in a video they released discussing what they say are Levant’s shady business practices, citing their own personal experiences as well as audio they secretly recorded from a meeting between Levant and Llewelyn-John.
They allege that Rebel Media pockets funds raised via their exhaustive email list, something they grow through petitions and calls to action throughout their videos, and fundraises unnecessarily to line their own pockets.
As an example, they tell a convincing story about Lauren Southern’s sudden resignation from Rebel Media. According to Robertson, Southern refused to release a new video requesting additional donations for Gavin McInnes’s Israel trip after the necessary amount of funds were raised. In Robertson’s view, Southern was “unceremoniously fired and threatened with legal action” because she refused to dishonestly tell her viewers that Rebel Media needed more money when the necessary funds were already raised.
The two also claim that Levant pulled the plug on a video they produced about a “massive scandal” they uncovered that would rock the foundation of the United Kingdom Independence Party because Levant wanted Nigel Farage to work for him.
Robertson also claims Levant invited Farage as well as Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson “out to dinner” in “what seemed like yet another attempt to hire him right under from Alex Jones.”
Another main criticism from Robertson and Llewelyn-John is that Rebel Media does not clearly link to its policy about what happens to extra funds on any of its donation pages, meaning that in Robertson’s view, donors may not know that their money may not necessarily go to the cause they are explicitly donating to help.
Amid this massive controversy that will likely be litigated for years to come, Rebel Media lost two of its largest stars: Faith Goldy and Gavin McInnes.
Goldy was fired for attending the Charlottesville protest against Levant’s wishes and for appearing on a podcast affiliated with the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi news and shock humor website.
“I was upset that she went to the Charlottesville protests, despite my direction to her not to go in any capacity.
But we all screw up — you don’t throw someone overboard for making a mistake. Each of us are second chancers, our whole company is a second chance.
But then I saw the news that she went on a podcast from the Daily Stormer, and it was just too far. So we said goodbye.”
Goldy released her own statement on her departure via Twitter.
— ☩ Faith J Goldy 🇨🇦 (@FaithGoldy) August 18, 2017
She also defended her former employer on Twitter.
>dozens of jobs
>a voice for hundreds of thousands
>legitimately raised millions for snubbed causes
I will always stand w Ezra
— ☩ Faith J Goldy 🇨🇦 (@FaithGoldy) August 17, 2017
Regardless of the reason she left, her absence will likely deal a blow to Rebel Media, as her average YouTube video reached nearly 100,000 views.
Numbers are hard 😪
— ☩ Faith J Goldy 🇨🇦 (@FaithGoldy) August 11, 2017
As for McInnes, the information about his departure is scarce. Entertainment website Canadaland reached out to Levant for a statement on his departure, and Levant replied that he “tried to keep [McInnes], but he was lured away by a major competitor that we just couldn’t outbid.”
McInnes has been suspiciously quiet about not only the issue of his departure on social media, but in general. He has been almost entirely silent for almost 24 hours, something very peculiar for a celebrity with an active online following.
While this may be all there is to the story, it is definitely a suspicious time for McInness to part ways with Levant.