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Northrop Grumman says it is looking into report of employee involved with white nationalist group

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Northrop Grumman Space Park in Redondo Beach. Northrop said Thursday it was taking “immediate action” to look into a report that one of its employees was part of a white nationalist group and participated in the Charlottesville, Va., rally last year.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Aerospace giant Northrop Grumman Corp. said it is taking “immediate action” to look into a report that one of its engineers is part of a white nationalist group and was involved in violent brawls during last year’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Investigative news outlet ProPublica and PBS documentary program “Frontline” identified Michael Miselis, 29, as a member of the Rise Above Movement, which they described as a Southern California group that “expresses contempt for Muslims, Jews and immigrants.” The Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights group describes the Rise Above Movement as a hate group, and categorizes it specifically as a white nationalist group.

ProPublica and “Frontline” said they identified Miselis pushing an African American protester to the ground and “pounding on him” in video footage of the Charlottesville rally, according to the article published Thursday. The outlets also identified him in video of a rally last year in Berkeley that was attended by supporters of President Trump. There, Miselis reportedly fought counterprotesters alongside other Rise Above Movement members.

Miselis could not immediately be reached for comment by The Times. When approached by ProPublica and “Frontline” in front of his home in Lawndale, Miselis said he “didn’t know anything” about what happened in Charlottesville and told the outlets, “I think you got the wrong guy.”

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Miselis is a systems engineer at Northrop Grumman, according to the ProPublica and “Frontline” report. In a statement Thursday, Northrop Grumman — which has a major facility in Redondo Beach — said it “was recently made aware of alleged employee actions that are counter to our values.”

Without naming Miselis, Northrop Grumman said the company does not “tolerate hatred or illegal conduct.”

“We condemn racist activities in any shape or form,” the Falls Church, Va., firm said.

Northrop Grumman did not respond to several requests for comment from ProPublica and “Frontline” for the story, but the report said the company knew of Miselis’ actions in Charlottesville and his involvement with the Rise Above Movement.

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Citing several unnamed current and former Northrop Grumman employees, ProPublica and “Frontline” reported that Miselis has a security clearance to work in a computer modeling and simulation group within the company’s aerospace division.

Miselis reportedly informed his superiors of the interaction with reporters from ProPublica and “Frontline,” which is required for anyone with a higher-level security clearance, the report said.

Miselis is also a doctoral candidate in UCLA’s aerospace engineering program, according to ProPublica and “Frontline.” UCLA confirmed that, but said in a statement that he did not register for the spring or fall 2018 terms.

“The allegations made in the ProPublica story are serious, and UCLA is reviewing them,” the university said in the statement.

John Nockleby, professor of law and director of the civil justice program at Loyola Law School, said the 1st Amendment only protects individuals from action taken by the government, not private employers.

However, employees could have other kinds of legal protections, he said, and there is conflict in employment law about whether employers are free to regulate employee behavior outside the workplace.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

Twitter: @smasunaga

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UPDATES:

5:30 p.m.: This article was updated with confirmation of Michael Miselis’ UCLA doctoral program and comments from Loyola Law Professor John Nockleby.

This article was originally published at 2:10 p.m.


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