Media news site Mediaite managing editor “Jon Nicosia” has been using a fake name to mask his past as a convicted felon. Nicosia’s real name is Zachary Hildreth. He was convicted of bank fraud and larceny, and in 2002 admitted to larceny and securities fraud, he confessed in a Jan. 4 confessional post for Mediaite.
His admission was prompted by a forthcoming investigation by NYC news site Capital New York, which was published today. Capital New York wrote that Nicosia/Hildreth’s confessional blogpost was published while it was investigating his past.
“It was after Capital had spoken with seven former Mediaite employees about Hildreth’s identity over the last two weeks, but before Capital had approached Hildreth or his employers about the story or confirmed that Nicosia was in fact Zachary Hildreth, that Hildreth published his account on Mediaite,” Capital New York reported.
Hildreth scooped Capital New York’s story by getting ahead of the news with his own selective confession. But Capital New York’s investigation went into far greater detail and dusted out even more cobwebs of Hildreth’s full past that weren’t addressed by his own confession.
Capital New York’s report on Hildreth was based on anonymous “interviews with nine former employees,” none of whom ever met Hildreth a.k.a. Nicosia because he worked remotely, and eight of whom knew nothing about his “true identity.” While iMediaEthics isn’t generally fond of anonymous sources being used, in this case, it seems Capital New York thoroughly reported and disclosed to readers the reasons for the sourcing. And Capital New York clearly differentiated between anonymous sources in citing their information.
Nicosia/Hildreth explains why he used fake name
Hildreth explained on Mediaite how the fake name began. In 2006, he started a website of news video clips, which led him to his job at Mediaite, where he used his fake Nicosia name. But, he said in his confession that Mediaite was aware of his past and real name.
“When I started working more closely with media organizations, I adopted the name Jon Nicosia (a family name) and a new persona so that no one would know about the other me. I just wanted to put that terrible part of my life behind me and to be judged for what I could do, not what I had done.”
He continued, “But when I applied to become a Mediaite employee, I had to provide my given name and social security number. I knew that they would eventually realize who I was — which they did.”
That means Mediaite went along with deceiving its readers and other employees. So where is Mediaite’s owner and management’s explanation now that they put Hildreth’s column out front for the first bullets to hit? iMediaEthics is writing to ask.
Hildreth went on: “At that time, I disclosed my situation to Mediaite management. After some deliberation, they judged me based on my work to that point, rather than my past. I have since become managing editor at Mediaite, where I work with the site’s editor-in-chief, Andrew Kirell, coordinating coverage and editing video, among other duties.”
Nicosia/Hildreth impersonated a doctor, anonymous sources say
But, the lies don’t end with a fake name, according to Capital New York’s report. Capital New York’s anonymous sources said that Hildreth impersonated a doctor, writing:
“Five former employees said that Hildreth had told them he was a trauma surgeon who lived in the D.C. area with his boyfriend. Another one said that he told her he was a surgeon who lived in Massachusetts. Three former staffers described Hildreth as eager to demonstrate his expertise on health matters.”
Further, Capital New York found:
“Five former staffers told Capital that Hildreth had said he could afford to work for free because of the living he made as a surgeon.”
The plot thickens even more, though. According to Capital New York’s report, in 2005 “Hildreth accused his boyfriend, Joseph Kalinowski, of assault.” Kalinowski was acquitted in 2006, and in 2007, he got “his medical license back.” His lawyer said Hildreth used a fake name and called himself “an Iraq war veteran and a trauma surgeon.”
Nicosia/Hildreth responded to Capital New York’s story in a mass e-mail statement, according to NYC-based news site the Awl. He said:
“Following my confession about past bad behavior in my life there has been an enormous amount of reporting into my background and past. Some of it true, much of it inaccurate. I felt my heartfelt piece placed on the record was everything I wanted to say.
But some of these stories have accused me of wrongdoing and even criminal conduct in connection with a 2005 incident with my then boyfriend. The record is clear that he, not I, was prosecuted and tried for assault with a deadly weapon. To this day I live with the physical scars from that incident.
This was the same district attorney’s office that had prosecuted me previously for crimes I described in my piece. There is no doubt that if they thought or even suspected that I had engaged in criminal conduct, I would have been the one on trial, not him. My boyfriend was eventually acquitted and we settled a civil lawsuit I filed against him. We have both moved on with our lives. Again, I am trying to move on with mine.”
iMediaEthics has written to Mediaite asking when and who knew of Hildreth/Nicosia’s real identity and for a response to the accusations that he impersonated a doctor.
Nicosia/Hildreth not the only Mediaite staffer using fake name
Capital New York noted that Nicosia/Hildreth isn’t the first Mediaite staffer to be outed by another media outlet for using a fake name. Blogger Tommy Christopher also is using a pseudonym, which he says is for privacy and Mediaite senior editor at the time Nando di Fino said is acceptable.
di Fino told The Daily Caller in 2012: “He’s not presenting himself on Mediaite with a different name than everywhere else, so I’m not bothered. He’s known everywhere, professionally, as Tommy Christopher. He legally does business as Tommy Christopher. But the Secret Service knows his real name, and he uses his real name on the White House visitor logs. He even signs his real name in the visitor logs at the Daily Caller.”
For more on this, check out Capital New York’s investigation.