How far is too far to go in the quest for social justice?
It’s a struggle between a person’s right to free speech and privacy versus what one person believes is a cause for the greater good of society.
Huffington Post reporter Luke O’Brien did what he felt he had to do last week when he wrote a story exposing the true name of one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters who goes by the Twitter handle @AmyMek.
O’Brien was enraged at @AmyMek’s tweeting of, what he deemed to be, anti-Muslim rhetoric and subsequently exposed her real name to be Amy Mekelburg. He also exposed her husband as Connecticut based World Wrestling Entertainment executive Salvatore Siino and, in doing so, cost him his job.
After repeatedly calling WWE for a comment on Siino, O’Brien finally discovered that he had been fired, thanks to his story.
“Friday, after HuffPost asked the WWE a second time if anyone there had known about @AmyMek before hiring Siino, the company responded definitively,” O’Brien wrote.
“’No,’ a spokesperson for WWE told O’Brien. “‘Now that it has come to our attention, Sal Siino is no longer an employee.’”
O’Brien told me that he did not expect the WWE to fire Siino and was surprised when he learned that it did.
“I was shocked that they did that and if it was simply because of what his wife was tweeting, I don’t agree with it. I suspect something more was going on there,” he said.
I contacted WWE for this story but was given no more information on the firing.
In his piece O’Brien also exposed the names of both Mekelburg’s brother and her father’s businesses.
In reviewing the tweets of Mekelburg that O’Brien highlighted they do not appear to be out of the norm for many right-wingers who use Twitter to voice their concerns over radical Islam and various other issues. Mekelburg’s biggest crime appears to be the fact that she has over 220,000 followers and had a tweet retweeted by President Trump.
O’Brien has claimed that, in a direct message to me on Twitter, he is the one that is now receiving death threats, after exposing Mekelburg and her family.
“Mekelburg falsely accused me of many things, including a couple crimes. She did this knowingly and maliciously,” O’Brien told me. “Her intent was to damage my reputation, stop me from publishing or worse. Within minutes of her thread going live, I began receiving threats.”
“This has been insane. The level of harassment and threats I’ve been subjected to is off the charts,” O’Brien told me.
The reporter agreed to answer more of my questions for this story but, after reading them, has thus far declined. For the purpose of this story I have included the questions I asked O’Brien. If he decides to respond I will update with his answers.
Do you think it is proper to name her father’s family business which could now become the target of attacks and could put him in physical danger for what his daughter wrote?
Same question, but in regards to her husband. Did you not assume that World Wrestling Entertainment would fire him after you made them aware of his wife’s tweets? Was that your intention? If not do you have any regrets about that?
You are aware that Mekelburg’s family lives and works around Muslims, according to your reporting. Is there any concern for her safety? If she, or her family, are harmed do you bear any responsibility in your mind for that?
This is not the first time you have exposed someone who was intentionally anonymous on social media. The other, that I’m aware of, is the man behind the Twitter handle @RapinBill, known as Ricky Vaughn 2.0. These people are not government officials. Many of the things they have said are said by many right wing personalities on social media. Do you believe that it is fair game to dox people and affect their livelihoods if they tweet things you disagree with, even if some of those things could be considered reprehensible by some?
If it is fair to dox Mekelburg why do you keep the identities of her former friends a secret?
Do you believe that Mekelburg, who is Jewish, is a white supremacist?
You did a lot of research on Mekelburg and Douglass Mackey. The question I have is why? What is the end game? What was the need to expose her and are you concerned about any potential legal repercussions from this?
O’Brien did tell me that his intention was not to “stop Mekelburg’s hate speech. I want her to be accountable for what she says, not spew rhetoric that can incite violence while hiding.”
Many right-wing pundits and celebrities were outraged by what O’Brien did and the danger he has now put Mekelburg and her family in.
“Wow. @HuffPost is resorting to doxing. They have zero boundaries. It’s dangerous to be a conservative these days,” adult movie star Jenna Jameson tweeted.
— Jenna Jameson (@jennajameson) May 31, 2018
“PLEASE read this thread. THIS right here is what a corrupt fake news media is capable of doing, no matter who you are,” former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling wrote as he quoted Mekelburg’s thread.
PLEASE read this thread. THIS right here is what a corrupt fake news media is capable of doing, no matter who you are.
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) May 31, 2018
“The Huffington Post has doxed a Jewish woman, @AmyMek, who has been receiving death threats. Gawker is alive and well, unfortunately,” Mike Cernovich said.
The Huffington Post has doxed a Jewish woman, @AmyMek, who has been receiving death threats.
Gawker is alive and well, unfortunately. pic.twitter.com/gwNkBRj5xU
— Mike Cernovich ?? (@Cernovich) June 1, 2018
“Very wrong what HuffPo has done to @AmyMek and her family. They are confusing journalism with hate campaigns,” Jack Posobiec tweeted.
Very wrong what HuffPo has done to @AmyMek and her family. They are confusing journalism with hate campaigns
— Jack Posobiec?? (@JackPosobiec) June 1, 2018
But not everyone thought O’Brien was in the wrong. Former CNN and MSNBC reporter Soledad O’Brien praised the story.
“Fascinating digging into crazy troll and racist @amymek whose real name is apparently Amy Jane Mekelburg and whose husband used to be a WWE Executive. Worthwhile read,” she wrote.
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) June 2, 2018
This is not Luke O’Brien’s first piece doxing someone either. In an April story, he outed another of the president’s supporters on Twitter who went by the name “Ricky Vaughn 2.0,” real name Douglass Mackey, and used the Twitter handle @RapinBill.
After exposing the intimate details of his life, O’Brien updated his story with the news that Twitter took action against him.
“After the publication of this story, Twitter suspended the @RapinBill account,” he wrote, adding that “secrecy will no longer be effective for Ricky Vaughn.”
The issue here is that this is not one rogue person on Twitter doxing someone. This is a writer for a major news organization who wrote these pieces and had them edited and published not once, but twice.
Does the Huffington Post believe that those who don’t think the way they approve of should be subject to mortal danger? Does it believe that right-wingers and supporters of the president do not have a right to privacy. Many remain private for the very reason that Mekelburg did. Because having an opinion could destroy the lives and livelihoods of one’s entire family.
It is tough to imagine what the rationale is for exposing a private citizen other than wanting to cause that person harm. If that was his goal, his mission was accomplished. But if this to become the norm it is a dark day for journalism.
It would be fantastic to get to what O’Brein’s reasons were for why he did what he did. In speaking to him he appears to be a reasonable person and our interactions have been cordial.
I stand firmly against what he has done, which I have told him. But I have an open mind and I’m willing to hear, and report, on what his reasoning is. I await his response.