An owner of a state-licensed cannabis testing business in Eugene said she has taken steps to sever ties to her company after local activists alleged she participates in neo-Nazi activities.
Bethany Sherman, listed in state records as managing member and CEO of OG Analytical, said Wednesday she is stepping down from the company she founded in 2013 and plans to sell the lab.
In a lengthy written response to Eugene Antifa’s claims that she is associated with white power groups, the Eugene resident denied being a neo-Nazi and said her only “crime is a thought crime.”
“I find it extremely disconcerting that it is admired and revered to have ‘gay pride,’ ‘black pride,’ ‘Asian pride, or pride in any other cultural heritage, but if you have ‘white pride’ it automatically makes you a Nazi, and you are ostracized, attacked, and lynched by your community,” she wrote in a statement issued to The Oregonian/OregonLive. “I admit, I am proud that I am white, and I’m not ashamed of my heritage. And I admit that I have been so conditioned to feel shame about this pride that I discreetly sought community where I could.
“Knowing the potential ramifications of my actions, I did my best to keep them incredibly discreet,” she said, adding that she did not disclose her views to her coworkers.
She said the online community she discovered “was not the right community for me” and has withdrawn “all communication” from it.
Eugene Antifa alleged in a report this week that Sherman and Matthew L. Combs, also listed on state records as an owner of OG Analytical, are neo-Nazis and that Combs is an organizer for the American Patriots Brigade, which it said serves as a support group for the neo-Nazi gang American Front. It also alleges that Sherman has supplied food and support for neo-Nazi gatherings and operated a Twitter account under the handle, @14th_word. That account was inactive Wednesday morning, but activists with Eugene Antifa archived the tweets.
According to a screenshot Eugene Antifa took of the Twitter account, the bio says it belongs to a “#nationalist mommy. Our children deserve to be raised in a wholesome environment free of oppression against whites.”
The Anti-Defamation League says “14 words” is a white supremacist slogan, meaning, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
Sherman did not respond to a text asking if she managed that Twitter account.
Eugene Antifa said it obtained access to a server for a chat app called Discord, which it mined for information about Sherman and Combs’ connections to white power groups. The group said it reviewed messages detailing activities and interactions of various organizations with neo-Nazi beliefs.
Sherman has been active in the cannabis industry and served on a state subcommittee for marijuana lab rules. According to the company’s website, she founded OG Analytical in 2013.
Sherman on Wednesday said Combs has not been active in the company since 2013. The two have a child but their relationship status was unclear Wednesday; Sherman declined to respond to multiple text messages asking about the couple’s status.
Combs did not respond to multiple text messages about antifa’s claims.
Rodger Voelker, lab director for OG Analytical, said Wednesday employees decided Tuesday that the company could not continue with Sherman as owner.
Voelker said he learned of the allegations for the first time this week, calling them “horrific” and “disgusting.” He said he does not have a personal relationship with the couple outside of work and said he was flabbergasted by the claims.
“It blindsided all of us,” he said. “It’s unbelievable that you can work with people — our relationship is purely professional. We don’t share personal beliefs, religious, political or anything else. This is just unbelievable.”
He said he wants to distance himself and the company, which has a dozen employees, from the explosive allegations.
“We were literally drug into this ugly, ugly swamp through no actions of our own,” he said. “It’s just by association. It’s a really horrific situation.”
He said he asked the couple directly about the claims. He declined to say how they responded.
The company experienced a swift backlash to the antifa report, said Voelker, who said business has come to a halt since the allegations were made public.
“We have already seen a 100 percent decline in our business,” he said. “Nobody likes Nazis.”
HiFi Farms on Wednesday announced it would stop doing business with OG Analytical in light of the information reported by Eugene Antifa.
Voelker said Sherman came to the lab Wednesday “in a moment of extreme distress” and blamed the staff for failing to support her when antifa’s allegations became public.
“She came in and went off on us for not supporting her,” said Voelker. “She was shocked we didn’t stand up and support her and we said we can’t support these beliefs.”
Voelker said other employees angrily confronted Sherman about her views.
“She doesn’t seem to get that those views are repugnant to most people,” Voelker said.
Voelker said he’s meeting with lawyers on Thursday to discuss his options. He said he plans to come into work to finish testing the samples the company agreed to test, but the company’s future is grim.
“The brand is dead,” he said. “It’s over.”
Here is Sherman’s full response to the allegations:
December 6, 2017
An article was recently put out about me, my family, and my company by Eugene Antifa, a local chapter of an extremist, domestic terrorist organization. I would like to address these claims head-on. I am not, nor have I ever been, a “Neo-Nazi” or affiliated with any “Neo-Nazi” group or any other extremist organization.
The accusations made against me and my family are very upsetting to me, and I want to make it clear that this is not who we are. The contents of this article are very twisted in their portrayal of events.
My only crime is a thought crime, akin to 1984. I believe that the world is tapestry of beautiful colors, each one full of a wealth of cultural heritage, and that each culture has a right to be proud of their heritage, and an obligation to protect and preserve that culture. I believe that this tapestry is not exclusive of European Americans, and I find it extremely disconcerting that it is admired and revered to have “Gay Pride,” “Black Pride,” “Asian Pride,” or pride in any other cultural heritage, but if you have “White Pride,” it automatically makes you a Nazi, and you are ostracized, attacked, and lynched by your community. I admit, I am proud that I am white, and I’m not ashamed of my heritage. And I admit that I have been so conditioned to feel shame about this pride that I discreetly sought community where I could. Knowing the potential ramifications of my actions, I did my best to keep them incredibly discreet. I did not share this activity or my believes with anyone in my professional community. I further admit that I also quickly realized that this was not the supportive online community I had found was not the right community for me, and somewhere near half a year ago I withdrew all communication with that community. To be clear, this community was NOT any faction of ANY “Neo-Nazi” organization. The community I’m referring to is comprised of hard working, good-hearted people like you and like me, who are forced into secrecy because they share similar beliefs, which Eugene Antifa is now proving to be true: that being White and having pride in your cultural heritage will make you the victim of hate crimes. I learned a great deal from this experience, and have learned even more in the last 24 hours since this article was published.
My hiring practices, my business partnerships, and my friendships should say enough about the fact that neither myself, nor my company has in any way acted in a discriminatory fashion against anyone for their race, religion, politics, gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, disability, or other. We just hosted our Company Christmas party and I gladly welcomed a wealth of diversity into the joyous occasion. I have donated thousands of dollars to support organizations like the Human Rights Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Red Cross, and The MS Society. I have created jobs for 15 people, I’ve volunteered hundreds of hours to organizations like Good Will, CALC, and The State of Oregon to help build and establish regulations. I have founded organizations whose aim to bring people together for the betterment of our communities. I am a human being, just like you, and I’ve worked very hard to give back and to create a safe and accessible industry for ALL Oregonians. I am the victim of a hate crime, perpetrated by an anonymous organization whose primary aim is to ruin other peoples’ lives. I have never made any such attempts at hurting any other human being, in any way (including via defamatory articles or social media posts) for any reason, nor have I EVER made any discriminatory overtures. Let’s be clear about this: Neither myself, nor my company, have ever, EVER practiced, preached, or recruited anyone to practice or preach hate or hateful rhetoric in ANY way. I hope that my community can find it within themselves to see beyond these hurtful claims at who I really am, at the work I’ve done in this community to help build it, and trust that these claims don’t fit me; that I am a good, loving person, committed to my community, and that this commitment has no shred of hate or discrimination in it.
The remarks made in this article have had a devastating effect on not only me, but on each of my 14 hardworking employees who are completely unrelated to the contents of the aforementioned article. To be clear, I still have yet to receive a single dollar in profit from OG Analytical, instead diverting the company earnings to better support my employees for 4 years in a row. I am proud that we launched a full benefits program this year, including health, vision, dental, and vacation time, and have elected to payout employee bonuses each year instead of paying out profits to owners. My employees have been dedicated to our mission of building a sustainable cannabis testing industry, which, in odd contrast, requires that we remove all bias from the work we do. By boycotting OGA, you’re not hurting me, you’re hurting the 14 hardworking people unrelated to this accusation who rely on OGA for their living.
This being said, the devastating impacts of this article are clear, regardless of any statement I could possibly make about them. Abhorrent racial epithets have covered our social media pages to the point that I took them down to save my employees and clients from further harassment. I find it difficult for me to find a path forward with the company while salvaging the hard work each of my employees has put into OG Analytical. Without these people, I could not have accomplished all the successes this company has seen in the last 4 years. In effort to save my team from further harm, I am resigning as CEO of OG Analytical effective immediately, and offering up the company for sale.
Information from: The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)