Press release from JREF

Los Angeles Office Closed

In order to achieve cost-savings and greater efficiency, the Los Angeles office of the JREF has closed effective September 1, 2014. All operations have been moved to Falls Church, Virginia.

DJ Grothe is no longer with the JREF. James Randi has taken over as acting President.

This restructuring is part of an enhanced educational agenda aimed at inspiring an investigative spirit in a new generation of critical thinkers by engaging children and their parents, as well as educators and the general public, in how to think about the many extraordinary claims we hear every day.

Contact the JREF at:
James Randi Educational Foundation
2941 Fairview Park Drive, Suite 105
Falls Church, VA 22042


  1. says

    Not to rain on the parade, and I am happy DJ is gone. But isn’t Randi 86 years old? No offence but he needs to find a new President ASAP …. Or probably even better would be a board that can make sure the Pres isn’t bringing the foundation into disrepute with his constant gaffs and harassment.

  2. screechymonkey says

    Interesting to see the bit about “enhanced educational agenda.” Back when I used to read the JREF Forum, there were some educators posting there who were very frustrated at the organization’s seeming apathy toward that part of its mission.

  3. says

    The @$$hole bigots are not happy:


    Do not like.

    DJ has done an incredible job. He really made TAM a great event, actively including diverse speakers and injecting fresh new programming.

    This news makes me worry about his work being undone. And I was already a little worried about Savage being added to the board—only for his friendship with Skepchicks and seeming obliviousness to the problematic/poisonous SJW faction of skepticism.

    Will Skepchicks return to TAM, now?

    Hopefully not. But I imagine they and FTB are already writing their celebratory drama blog posts…

    He can go fuk himself!

  4. Brucee says

    It will be interesting to see if next July brings a JREF TAM conference that provides appropriate policies and appropriate speakers to make it an event that some of us will feel comfortable to attend again. The ball is in Randi’s court.

  5. says

    If it is Sara Mayhew using the Ztarr name, she really needs to get a life. I think she is seriously mentally ill and needs massive treatment in a facility somewhere. I am NOT joking at all.

  6. says

    Chigau, when Ophelia suggested it was Mayhew, instead of some random guy, my perception of the situation changed. I can get a MAN being opposed to feminism, but I cannot understand how any atheist woman, whether Sara Mayhew or Abbie Smith of ERV fame, can hate the Skepchicks and the FTB people, who they should see at their allies. It is almost like an African-American person hating the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or President Obama.

  7. says

    I can count, how many years was it since Sarah Moglia was told by Randi that DJ would be sacked? Seems Randi doesn’t move quickly and he might well need to here. “Acting” President doesn’t mean there is a succession plan in place, in fact the seeming haste and abrupt announcement imply little planning has gone into this at all. Regardless will be interesting to see who the successor is and can they possibly be as bad or worse than DJ? Probably not…

  8. Sili says

    Virginia? Doesn’t Randi live in Florida? Who’s running that office?

    Honestly surprised at this. Given how long it’s taken I can only assume DJ’s done something we’re not privy to yet, since all his arseholiness on record didn’t do the trick.

  9. kellym says

    As far as I know, Barbara Drescher is still with the JREF. Last I saw, she was Consultant for Educational Programs. She is unambiguously pro-harassment, to the point of engaging in it herself, just like DJ. So there may not actually be an improvement. I have a small bit of hope though.

  10. screechymonkey says

    Sili @15:

    Virginia? Doesn’t Randi live in Florida? Who’s running that office?

    According to Jim Lippard’s tweets, it’s the same address as a restaurant owned by the JREF’s major donor and board member Rick Adams.

    That doesn’t really bode well for the future of the organization. I mean, maybe in the internet age you don’t really need much of a bricks-and-mortar headquarters, but….

    And much as I’d like to believe that it was Grothe’s douchebaggery that finally did him in, another Lippard tweet probably shows the real reason: “JREF Revenue: 2011: $1.56M, 2012: $1.29M, 2013: $887.5K.”

    (Of course, it may be that the douchebaggery and declining revenues are correlated.)

  11. Al Dente says

    Sili @15

    I can only assume DJ’s done something we’re not privy to yet, since all his arseholiness on record didn’t do the trick.

    I suspect you’re right. Considering the comment about “cost-savings” I wouldn’t be surprised if Grothe was caught doing some financial finagling.

  12. screechymonkey says

    I should clarify my @17. Lippard reported that the address was the same “office building” as the restaurant. So it could be that the JREF has an entire suite of offices there; it isn’t necessarily just a maildrop or a cubbyhole next to the walk-in freezer!

  13. tonyinbatavia says

    kellym @16’s message gives me pause about my thinking that this is the greatest news I have heard in a while, but I am hopeful that this is a sign of better things to come from JREF and TAM.

    Ashley Miller, on her FB page, said that in 2011 the JREF was getting $675K in donations but in 2013 they only got $325K. That alone might explain D.J.’s sacking. Will Randi, Drescher, and the rest recognize that the JREF’s horrendous anti-social-justice stances have likely contributed to the massive shortfall? You would like to think they are smart enough to figure that out.

  14. says

    Oh, please. You may not like DJ Grothe, but there’s no reason to accuse him of criminal activity. TAM attendance has been down the last few years (does anyone know the figures for the 2014 meeting?), and since meetings were apparently their major fundraiser, it’s not surprising their revenue declined accordingly.

    I suspect DJ saw it coming. His rather bitter remarks about people criticizing the JREF every summer before the meeting was preparing to place the blame.

  15. Sili says

    It probably is, though, Screechy.

    The failing revenue is prolly the kicker, yes. How odd – wasn’t catering to the douchebag market supposed to be a financially sound decision? Weren’t we being assured the a few feminists would have no effect on the might of fully armed organised skepticism? Weird.

  16. screechymonkey says

    Sili @23,

    Yeah, exactly. It may be that the drop in revenue was unrelated to the anti-feminism, but at a minimum it suggests that all those high-fives the Slymers were giving Grothe weren’t translating into new donations. Intentionally or not, Grothe gave the JREF a new “brand identity” within its target market, and it wasn’t a profitable one.

  17. kellym says

    That’s fantastic news about Drescher, too, then. (I couldn’t find that info on the JREF site.)

    According to Doubtful News, “The event [TAM 2014] had 1110 registered attendees…” According to Wikipedia, TAM 2011 had 1650 attendees. Don’t know if that means “registered attendees.” But, if comparable, that would be a 32.7% drop in 3 years.

  18. kellym says

    And Sara Mayhew whined on Facebook that the JREF Twitter account recently unfollowed her. Tentatively good signs all around.

  19. Sili says

    Srsly? Isn’t get usual schtick that feminism is a First World problem not worthy of attention while there’s real suffering elsewhere? I hadn’t realised “elsewhere” was her twittering.

  20. Donnie says

    From my perspective, a lot of the flack from anti-SJW is more about stirring shit up and found a useful tool in former JREF President, DJ Grothe. The anti-SJWs stroked DJ’s ego,created a circle jerk environment without contributing sufficiently enough to support JREF.

    Having Adam Savage and Steve Novella on the Board will help repair the JREF. I suspect that in the next week or two we will see a serious amount of fence repairing. At least, I hope.

  21. says

    It’s my guess that all the overt anti-feminism has been bad for enrollment, but it’s absolutely a guess.

    I wonder if they keep any metrics (as professional conference-organizers do) about attendees, broken out by gender, region, etc. Because it’s possible they noticed something like a disproportional dip in attendance by one gender, or something? Maybe.

    I had no idea Rick was on their board and a big donor. Heh. He’s a decent fellow, in my dealings with him over the years, and I know for a fact that he does not have any truck with harrassment or sexual discrimination; he’s run some large and sucessful businesses and understands how things work in the real world.

  22. screechymonkey says

    The #jref hastag on Twitter is entertaining. I particularly enjoyed seeing that elevatorgate moron complain in one tweet that someone’s criticism of Grothe wasn’t “nuanced,” and in his next tweet refer to Melody Hensley as “smelody.”

    Also a little weird seeing all the hate directed at CFI (as in, “hope the JREF doesn’t bow to the SJWs like CFI.” I don’t really think of CFI as being all that “pro-SJW”; much more of a mixed bag. But then, I guess that’s sufficient to earn the hatred of some.

  23. says

    I don’t really think of CFI as being all that “pro-SJW”

    Yeah. Me neither. I was just thinking that it would be awfully nice if CFI took the example and cleared house too and turfed Lindsay and Radford (he’s still at CFI right?).

  24. yazikus says

    From the JREF forum:

    Here’s my prediction on TAM: the JREF will make a deal with Michael Schermer. Schermer will organize TAM next year “for” the JREF and take half of any money raised for the Skeptics Society. Eventually it will be a joint event and when the inevitable happens with The Amazing One TAM will become a 100% Skeptics Society event.

    Safe prediction. It’s already a joint event co-sponsored by Shermer’s Skeptic Society the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, since 2010.

    This would not induce a feeling of optimism.

  25. Hj Hornbeck says

    Benson @31:

    It’s my guess that all the overt anti-feminism has been bad for enrollment, but it’s absolutely a guess.

    I’m of a similar mind. With no major scandal to coincide the announcement, my guess is that the final straw was money. Too many lost donations, due to too many complaints, floated across the board’s desk. After months of political maneuvering behind-the-scenes that stalled progress, a decisive vote or decree broke the stalemate and led to the flurry of activity we’re seeing.

    I’m also guessing Zvan’s call to contact the JREF board played a major role, which came bundled with a handy index post of several of Groethe’s lies and misrepresentations.

  26. says

    “Barbara Drescher resigned from the JREF recently.”

    I had to look her up on Facebook, and sure enough I found this statement from her:

    Before I read any speculations about what happened, few of which I expect will come close to being accurate, I’d like to go on the record with something:

    D.J. Grothe is no more perfect a person than the rest of us, but I have found him to be on what I consider the right side of moral and ethical issues much more consistently and fully than almost any other person I’ve known. He has faced more defamation, vilification, mistreatment, and bullying in the last 2 years than most of us will experience in a lifetime and he has done so with dignity and without returning the vitriol.

    I value his friendship and his contributions to the causes we share.

    Thank you, D.J., for being you.

    So in essence she is calling all critics of D.J. Grothe liars. Nice! Should we nominate him for sainthood, or is Drescher a liar? What she is saying does not make sense if Grothe is so reviled by Skepchicks & FTB people. Opposing feminism and disrespecting women is NOT being moral and ethical!

  27. John Morales says

    dalehusband @40:

    Should we nominate him for sainthood, or is Drescher a liar?


    Or might perhaps Drescher be quite honest in those expressed sentiments, regardless of the actual situation regarding Grothe?

    (With that addendum, is the universe of possibility exhausted?)

  28. Derec A says

    Benson @#31:

    It’s my guess that all the overt anti-feminism has been bad for enrollment, but it’s absolutely a guess.

    Well, here’s my guess. People just don’t have the money anymore since the economy tanked and has stayed in the shitter to go to expensive conferences anymore. And really, how many times are you willing to pay large sums of money to see the same people over and over again. That is unless you’re one of the special people that get all expense paid trips to these things. Then it’s party time.

    Has nothing to do with feminism, “anti-” or otherwise.

  29. says

    2941 Fairview Park Drive is an area of almost nothing but office buildings, and the restaurants that serve their occupants. Yahoo Maps lists this address as “apartments,” but it also lists several businesses at this address, including TWO restaurants. Suite 105 implies the JREF office “suite” is on the first floor — most likely sharing that floor with the restaurant — which kind of implies, at best, not a huge amount of office space.

  30. says

    Blanche @ 37 – no, that comment doesn’t relate to the topic at hand. I asked you just a couple of days ago to stop making random comments. You might consider getting my name right, too.

  31. says

    #42: Yeah, and TAM has always been the premium meeting — meaning expensive. The libertarian bent might have been an unconscious effort to keep it aimed at people who could afford it, and the combination of declining incomes and the out-of-touch focus on being the well-off guy’s meeting might have eroded the base. Most of the attendees I talked to were not ridiculously rich, and had to make some sacrifices to get there.

  32. Kevin Kehres says

    @42 & 46: Sorry, but blaming the economy doesn’t track. The economy tanked at the end of 2008, yet there was a steady increase in JREF income and convention attendance until the shit hit the fan in 2012.

    The US has been in a steady (slow, but steady) economic recovery over the past several years. The stock market is at record highs. Unemployment is at its lowest level since the end of the Bush Misadministration. Disposable income is also at an all-time high. These are all Bureau of Labor statistics, so your individual anecdote is contained inside those numbers.

    Even if you’re going to make some sort of “underemployment” excuse for every attendee or potential attendee, that still doesn’t explain why attendance went up through the darkest times of the economy and has slid since 2012. If it were merely “times are tough”, we should see a tanking in 2009, then steady growth since then.

    TL;dr — The numbers say “no”.

  33. screechymonkey says

    Derec A @42,

    I’m not sure how well the economy works as an explanation given that the drop didn’t seem to start until 2011, but the rest of your points are valid.

    I stopped going to TAM before the whole elevatorgate blowup more or less for the reasons you and PZ identify. It became increasingly hard to justify shelling out that amount of money for the two or three talks I actually wanted to see, as opposed to Michael Shermer reading from his book again, or Penn and Teller gracing us with another Q&A. And even some of the nicer, potentially interesting speakers were duds. With all respect to Adam Savage, his story of building a Maltese Falcon was… a little underwhelming. It became pretty easy to decide, “eh, I’ll spend the money on a long weekend somewhere else, and watch the interesting talks a couple months later on YouTube.”

  34. pneumo says

    Market saturation might be another explanation. There are attendees that go every year, or as often as they can. Others come once and never go back, and the one-time visitor pool is cycled through faster than repeat visitors increase.

  35. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    dalehusband @ 11

    You can say you don’t understand their behavior without throwing mentally ill people under the bus. Immediately going for mental illness whenever someone does something incomprehensible to you is harmful. It serves no purpose except to dehumanize the asshole and demonize mentally ill people.

  36. says

    Probably a combination of shitty behavior, stale roster, and economics two ways. One is that people have less money, and the other is that smaller more local stuff has popped up over the last few years. Local stuff is cheaper and easier to wrangle logistically, and means that the talent pool is different from the same old blah of TAM. I’m sure a lot of people took their limited funds elsewhere and as those events grow TAM will become increasingly irrelevant.

  37. says

    I can think of three ways this can go:
    1) They determine that their anti-feminist stance heretofore has been hurting them
    2) They determine that all the fighting over feminism has been hurting them
    3) They determine that whatever has been hurting them, anti-feminism has had nothing to do with it.

    I need hardly point out that only one of those possibilities will lead to things moving in a more positive direction. And Shermer’s involvement makes me suspect it’s not the most probable one.

    Donnie @ 32:

    Having Adam Savage and Steve Novella on the Board will help repair the JREF.

    I thought Steve Novella was part of the anti-Watson bloc.

    (I know. Adam Savage reportedly doesn’t get along with his co-host either.)

  38. Blanche Quizno says

    @44 Ophelia, I’m terribly sorry about the name thing. It’s something I have a tendency to do, unfortunately. Sorry, but I missed your comment about the random comments – will do.

  39. says

    Hershele @ #52:

    I thought Steve Novella was part of the anti-Watson bloc.

    From things I’ve read and heard from him, Rebecca, and others, this is not the case at all. In fact, if I recall correctly, he’s quite supportive of her (see his response to a letter hating on Rebecca’s “This Day in Skepticism” because she “mentions women too much”… Steve basically responded by saying “actually, it turns out we haven’t mentioned women often enough, and we should do that more”).

    I could be wrong, but that’s been my impression since I started listening to Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe (because I was looking for more Rebecca Watson stuff, because she’s awesome).

  40. Hj Hornbeck says

    Can I point out how screwed up this situation is?

    If the Secular Coalition of America had shut an office, we’d be worried about how it would effect their lobbying. If Secular Women fell on hard times, we’d worry about their Abort Theocracy campaign. Woes at CFI would bring up a dozen or more potential lost programs.

    But the JREF falls on hard times, and everyone’s primary concern is an expensive, flashy party. Not the educational programs of an “Educational Foundation,” as they either don’t have any or the skeptic community doesn’t think they’re significant.

    The next president of the JREF is gonna have a tough hill to climb…

  41. kaboobie says

    Hershele #52

    Steve and the rest of SGU are very supportive of Rebecca as far as I can tell. It’s a shame they have continued to perform live at TAM without her, though. I know Steve was active in mending fences between Amy Roth and Harriet Hall after the t-shirt incident and may have hoped to reconcile Rebecca with the JREF in time. If TAM continues and Steve remains a JREF fellow, maybe that’s feasible now that DJ is gone.

    I just got back from DragonCon, where the entire SGU did a live show together. Ironically, that was the only thing I saw on the Skeptrack, because Barbara Drescher and Ben Radford dominated most of the programming.

  42. Hj Hornbeck says


    kaboobie @57:

    Ironically, that was the only thing I saw on the Skeptrack, because Barbara Drescher and Ben Radford dominated most of the programming.

    WHAT?! But several people have assured me that being accused of sexual assault online will almost certainly destroy your career! C-could it be that they’re wrong about this?!

    [folds onto a well-placed fainting couch]

  43. kaboobie says

    Michael Shermer would have been on the schedule too, but he cancelled because it conflicted with his honeymoon.

    Unfortunately, Shermer will always be welcome because Derek, who runs Skeptrack, is the host of Skepticality, which is sponsored by Skeptic magazine.

  44. screechymonkey says

    I’d be interested in reading an informed account of how exactly the money flows in skeptic circles. Are there many people actually making money purely as a business enterprise (e.g. selling Skeptic magazine), or is it about getting donations? (I realize that pay-what-you-want web models blur that line somewhat.) And when it comes to donations, is the real money in pleasing a few big-pocket donors, or do some orgs have broad donor bases?*

    No doubt some of the people who know the details can’t discuss them, but I can’t help but think that the answers would explain a lot of things, as kaboobie’s @59 does.

    *Obviously, the really, REALLY big money is in dramarageblogging. Duh.

  45. leni says

    Kevin Kehres @ 47.

    I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the economy thing. I lost a decent job in 2010, spent the next two years under and unemployed. The last two years I have been working a good job full-time and am still digging myself out of the huge financial hole that I fell into. I am lucky- I had pretty low debt to begin with, didn’t have to declare bankruptcy, and rent (and also have extremely generous and patient landlords who did not evict me when I fell behind on rent). I didn’t lose a home or car. I had people to help me.

    And the light at the end of the tunnel is just now appearing, after 2 years. The bad news is that it will probably be another two before I am able to build up even a small savings.

    I know I’m not alone in any of this, and am in significantly better shape than a lot of people are. In 2010 I might have made room for TAM, but that is unthinkable now, even though on paper I am doing about as well I was then.

    Anyway, I don’t know that the feminism had anything to do with it, but I can’t imagine it helped.

  46. kaboobie says

    I attended TAM 9 and wasn’t inclined to go the following year for several reasons (the cost, speaker lineup not as interesting, being uncomfortable with the heat and smoke in Las Vegas). I was keeping open the possibility of going in the future. I even considered DJ a friend. Then came the blame against female bloggers for scaring women away, coupled with the rape apologist “locker room banter” comment, and my answer went from, “Not this year,” to, “Never again”.

  47. Kevin Kehres says

    @62: You’re ignoring the fact that for every anecdote like yours you can discover, there will be of necessity an anecdote on the other side of the equation. Anecdotes aren’t data, but they make up data. And the data say there has been a steady increase in disposable income overall.

    That means that your personal circumstances are more-than made-up for by someone else having a really, really good year. Someone else had to have done better-than-average to make up for the less-than-average. It’s math.

    For example, me. I had a very bad 2009. So much so that I took a sabbatical rather than pound my head against a wall. 2010 was much better, as was every subsequent year. This year is my best year since 2008 in terms of income. And add to that the recovery in the stock market, and I’m practically swimming in cash (relatively speaking, of course).

    There’s you. There’s me. And neither of us went to TAM. Maybe for different reasons. Mine was because I’m not associating with Bigfoot Skeptics (BSers) who denigrate women.

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