‘It went to the guys who pulled on the Nazi costume hat’: Groupon boss in Nazi scandal

Image copyright Screenshot Image caption Groupon CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy previously worked as a consultant for the alt-right

In 2017, Groupon’s CEO, Tim O’Shaughnessy, received a picture from a customer – with a swastika circled in red.

In an attempt to “make it right”, Mr O’Shaughnessy decided to cut off Groupon’s ties with the political sub-culture.

His actions may have hurt his reputation with financial pundits and, after he stepped down, shocked his staff.

According to a report in Medium, he found a way to squelch his critics: by turning the whole situation into a corporate culture-war lightning rod.

Marketing boss Tim Langdon was thinking about a new career when he used Groupon as a recruiter in 2015.

He already worked with people he considered extreme right-wingers, and became friends with a group of people and organisations with a far-right ideology, thinking they were on the right side of history.

There was nothing unusual about working with such people – the term “extremist” was being thrown around so much, it was almost meaningless.

Mr Langdon started thinking about adding political extremists to his network – hence the “militia consultant” title for his own personal business – “and seeing if it would be successful”.

He also thought of how a person like Richard Spencer, who was coming out as a white supremacist, would fit into a network of white nationalists.

The idea for a Mr Spencer Consulting Company grew and it appeared to Mr Langdon to be a great business opportunity.

Although most would run a tight ship, taking great care not to hurt their bottom line, Mr Langdon offered Spencer a place to act as a product consultant.

But more than a few people questioned how much Mr Spencer would profit from working as a “consultant” – if he was getting paid at all.

One of his consultants, Richard Perkins, helped arrange a “march” where Mr Spencer would meet Jason Kessler, the author of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last year.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Mr Spencer became involved in social media outrage after President Trump referred to a group of counter protesters as “skinheads” and “kikes”

Another associate, Anthony Kaplan, told a reporter from Vice News that he had taken a bit of money from Mr Spencer to organise a local white supremacist meet-up event called the “Contemporary Political Movement”.

Mr Perkins also claimed Mr Spencer was receiving much more than the $2,500 a month salary he suggested he would make as a consultant.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Langdon gave the impression that he was a bit of a puppet master and that the organisation was a success.

However, the biggest complaint the Mr Spencer Consulting Company got was about its name.

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On the day the website was launched, Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, tweeted that he had heard about the Mr Spencer Consulting Company and then created a blog post called the “Mr Spencer Groupon”.

Mr Langdon replied to the blog post as if he was the one whose company was being lampooned.

Then he began telling the media about the trouble with the Mr Spencer Consulting Company website, explaining that someone had clicked a link that introduced a risk feature.

Mr Langdon tweeted: “It went to the guys who pulled on the Nazi costume hat and tried to leave their mark.”

It was a ruthless move, with many commentators accusing Mr Langdon of venting and playing the race card.

Image copyright Screenshot Image caption Groupon gave Mr Spencer a platform and a small amount of money to “relate” to its audience

Mr Spencer was angered by this and left the consultancy organisation for good.

Now Mr Langdon is back in charge of the Mr Spencer Consulting Company and has left Groupon.

His former colleagues feel that he has gone full circle: He is now creating other opportunities for right-wingers who may want to come into his network, knowing that some will interpret his involvement as a warmongering media creation.

• This article was amended on 10 September 2018 to correct a previous version in which a journalist was misidentified.

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