On Jan. 6, Matthew Thomas Purse, a 45-year-old Navy veteran from Irvine, California, appeared to the Capitol wearing a black tactical vest with a red patch stating “DON’T SHOOT — PRESS” pinned on the back. Big, white lettering yelled “PRESS” on his helmet as well. A lanyard around his neck had a press permit stating his credentials as a member of the media.
Later that day, when he grabbed a microphone on the steps of the Capitol, it became evident that Purse was a participant in the anti-democratic “Save America” demonstration, which had just erupted into a fatal attempted insurgency.
Furthermore, it was evident that he despised journalists.
“First of all, mission accomplished, Patriots,” Purse said to scattered cheers from the right-wing mob that had just stormed, vandalized and looted the building, disrupting a joint session of Congress, according to a video reviewed by HuffPost. “History has been made here today. Simultaneously you broke in through the front and through the rear! They could not stop you! You occupied the building! You caused them to stop what they were doing! They had to evacuate! They couldn’t complete their session! Mission accomplished! Excellent!”
Purse motioned to a piece of grass near the Capitol building before turning up the microphone to another Make America Great Again supporter. “The lying press is hidden over there,” he said.
Purse later led a group of approximately 20 fans of former President Donald Trump to a media staging area, where he immediately began accosting reporters, at one instance hurling anti-Semitic comments from an Israeli journalist. Footage from the attack soon went viral, becoming a symbol of the violent anger thrown towards the “fake news media” on January 6.
Purse tried to pass himself off as a journalist again months later, in July, after being arrested and charged for being part of the horde that invaded the Capitol building, telling The Associated Press he was there as “part of a legitimate news organization,” which he refused to name. “The record will show I was not there in any illegal capacity ,” he said.
However, the identity of Purse’s “legitimate news organization” has been revealed. It’s called Happening Center, and it’s a blatantly white supremacist website with livestreams and a private messaging board. Thousands of people joined it during the political upheaval of 2020. Happening Center’s videos and social media messages, saved and maintained by anonymous anti-fascist researchers, reveal it at times supporting explicit neo-Nazism and celebrating mass murderers.
Purse might be one of the most nefarious figures in the Capitol on January 6. The shocking depth of his fanaticism has gone unreported, both in the press and in court papers, and is more proof of the fascist mindset that inspired the January 6 events.
His appearance also undermines the revisionist right-wing narrative that the rioters were just a bunch of foolish MAGA tourists, rather than the vanguard of a dangerous, racist mass movement hellbent on destroying what little remains of American democracy.
Purse’s zealotry was seen by television watchers all across the globe that day. On Al Jazeera Balkans, he led a swarm of Trump fans onto the section of the Capitol yard allocated for media, harassing reporters immediately. “This is the lying press!” As the Al Jazeera journalist attempted to resume his program, Purse shouted into the camera.
Viewers in Denmark may witness him yelling at Danish Broadcasting Channel reporter Lillian Kretz. “Sorry, sir, I’m trying to do my job,” Kretz begged Purse, trying to calm him down.
“Well, you know what? I’m trying to do my job too,” Purse responded. “You know what part of my job is? Getting in your face!”
Purse was also seen barging in front of the camera while abusing Channel 13 reporter Gil Tamary in Israel. “I’m gonna get in your face now and I’ll tell you why, yid,” Purse added, using a slur for Jew.
“What is a goy?” Purse went on, using a Hebrew word for a non-Jewish person that white racists have recently seized as a means of self-identification.
Purse became enraged when Tamary answered that he didn’t know what a goy was, labeling him a “lying Israeli” who was “playing the pilpul game.” Anti-Semites have adopted the word “pilpul,” which refers to a process of studying Jewish holy literature, as a manner of referring to Jews as deceptive or devious.
Purse could be heard mouthing the words “The Goyim know” at the close of the Channel 13 episode, a reference to yet another anti-Semitic trope, this one employed by neo-Nazis to paint Jews as malevolent puppet-masters.
As Purse concluded his outburst and went away, Tamary, the Israeli reporter, said sarcastically, “Thanks, man. Thank you very much for being with us.”
הטרלול שעבר גיל תמרי בשידור ישיר מוושינגטון, וההתמודדות המכובדת שלו: pic.twitter.com/kJpcHk1erY
— Ran Boker רן בוקר (@ranboker) January 6, 2021
Purse’s true identity would remain unclear for some months. On January 6, he presented himself as “Marc” to many individuals. As they combed through images and video footage seeking for clues, a gang of anonymous web sleuths determined to uncovering the Jan. 6 rioters dubbed him “Mr. Extra Creepy.”
By May, the investigators had gathered evidence proving that “Marc” or “Mr. Extra Creepy” was indeed Purse, who, according to public records, had largely lived in Arizona and Florida but currently resides in southern California. He joined the Navy in 1995 and spent two years as a Damage Controlman Fireman Apprentice, according to a Navy official, earning the National Defense Service Medal. The Navy official refused to provide the details of his discharge from the service.
According to court documents, he was arrested in 2009 and later pled guilty to federal counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, copyright infringement, and forfeiture after he and an accomplice were detected selling $500,000 in counterfeit software.
He was detained again in July on federal charges connected to his participation in the mob’s invasion of the Capitol.
3. More: Matt Purse wearing his “PRESS” outfit trying to intimidate *another* reporter.
— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) July 9, 2021
Purse was seen entering the Capitol at 2:59 p.m. on Jan. 6 from the Columbus Door on the eastern side of the building, readily distinguishable in his “PRESS” helmet and vest, carrying a long black pole with a camera and microphone attached to the end, according to an FBI affidavit.
“Purse appeared to be standing off to the side, observing the crowd’s interactions with the law enforcement officers,” the affidavit says. “At approximately 3:03 p.m., as the crowd became more volatile … Purse crossed the room and exited the Rotunda.”
Official hashtag status needed please for #MrExtraCreepy from California! Confesses 1/7 to running the press out of the #MediaSmash while in Press gear. Need 1/6 pics, media pen & elsewhere. In-house media unless posing. @erica1933 @TwittsnTweets @nate_thayer @capitolhunters 1/2 pic.twitter.com/vEztcMl4GO
— Opal Katz (@DianthaSol) March 7, 2021
Purse’s cover as a journalist almost got him off the hook, according to court documents. When the DOJ originally tried to prosecute him, a federal magistrate judge refused to sign off on an arrest warrant, stating that prosecutors had failed to establish Purse wasn’t a reporter. After all, there are regulations in existence that prevent journalists from being punished for performing their jobs, the judge noted.
A week later, prosecutors returned and submitted a revised affidavit. Purse had not obtained “any credentials from the Capitol, which allowed members of the news media access to areas inside of the Capitol,” according to the affidavit. He also had no “employment history” with “any news media organization.” And, although “Purse” has a website, it seems to be mostly utilized for live streaming and has no original material. The website also contains a private discussion forum.”
CAPITOL RIOT ARREST UPDATE:
*Matt Purse of Irvine CA is charged.
*Wore helmet & jacket labeled “PRESS”.
*He wasn’t news media.
*He wasn’t a tourist, either.
*”Mission accomplished; we broke into the Capitol.”
*Charges: Unlawful entry; disorderly conduct.https://t.co/6g4pZ2QWrE pic.twitter.com/UlkEA4dJeF
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) July 10, 2021
This time, the court approved the arrest warrant.
Purse has now pled not guilty to charges of entering and staying in a restricted facility or grounds, unruly and disruptive behavior in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and marching, protesting, or picketing in a Capitol building.
He was freed on the condition that he relinquish his passport, wear a location tracking device, remain away from Washington, D.C., save while attending court, and not carry a handgun, destructive device, or other weapon.
Purse’s lawyer, Potashner, did not answer to a request for comment on whether she intended to argue in court on Jan. 6 that he was a member of the press.
Shama Bartlett, who works for CJTV, an independent livestreaming media company, was also there and understood right away that Purse was not a journalist. “He was an agitator, he wasn’t there reporting the news,” she stated.
When Bartlett approached Purse, he introduced himself as a Happening Center employee and said that he was livestreaming himself on a site called DLive. (According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least five radicals utilized DLive to broadcast from the insurgency.)
Purse laughed as he showed Bartlett the press pass he’d manufactured for himself. “You know press badges, they mean nothing,” he said. “Yours is cute.”
Purse “believed he was press but also believed that identifying as press was a way of working the system so you can do what you want without being targeted by police,” Bartlett said.
Purse was plainly ecstatic about what had happened in D.C. that day. “This is just the start,” he told Bartlett. “I’d say mission accomplished. We broke into the Capitol.”