THE PARENTS OF BLAZE BERNSTEIN, A BRILLIANT IVY LEAGUE STUDENT ALLEGEDLY SLAIN BECAUSE HE WAS GAY AND JEWISH, TALK WITH “48 HOURS” IN THEIR FIRST PRIMETIME INTERVIEW FOR “IN THE NAME OF HATE”
Mom Jeanne Pepper Bernstein Tells Tracy Smith: “There Were People Congratulating This Accused Killer, For What He Has Done, Killing My Son – This Was Atrocious Hate”
(L-R) Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, Blaze Bernstein, Gideon Bernstein and Sam Woodward.
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The parents of Blaze Bernstein, a brilliant Ivy League student allegedly murdered because he was gay and Jewish, talk with 48 HOURS in their first primetime interview about the loss of their son, the neo-Nazi hate group that may have fueled anger in his alleged killer, and what they’re doing to move forward. Tracy Smith sits down with Bernstein’s parents for “In The Name of Hate” to be broadcast Saturday, Nov. 10 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Smith and 48 HOURS examine the murder of Bernstein and the investigation that led his high school classmate Sam Woodward to be charged with killing the University of Pennsylvania student. The broadcast also explores what influence a militant neo-Nazi hate group can have on a follower. The murder of Bernstein raises troubling questions concerning anti-Semitism and homophobia, issues that are at the heart of the nation’s current struggle to define itself.
“There were people congratulating this accused killer, for what he has done, killing my son,” Bernstein’s mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, tells Smith. “This was atrocious hate.”
Bernstein went missing on Jan. 2. He was visiting his parents and friends in California after finishing the fall semester. His parents were unaware he left the house until the next day. With some computer sleuthing, they tapped into Bernstein’s social media and found he met up with a former classmate, Woodward, who was then a college dropout working part-time and living at home.
Woodward told Bernstein’s parents and police that he and Bernstein visited a nearby park to hang out. According to Woodward, Bernstein headed down a path alone and disappeared. Six days after he was reported missing, Bernstein’s body was found in that same park. He had been stabbed 19 times in the neck.
Soon after, Woodward was charged with murder and the personal use of a knife. The charges have since been increased to a hate crime, prosecutors say, because of information found on Woodward’s personal computer, social media feeds and cellphone. Woodward has pleaded not guilty. He reportedly told investigators that Bernstein made unwanted advances. His attorney argued there is no basis for hate crime charges.
If what investigators say is true about the influence of a hate group on Woodward, the Bernstein case is one in a rash of hate-fueled crimes that have hit the country this year. Smith and 48 HOURS take viewers into the world of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, including exclusive, revealing and shocking insight from an anonymous former member.
“He killed a Jew,” the former Atomwaffen Division member tells Smith, “Like, was there a party? No, but like, did people joke about it? Yeah. Everyone celebrated him.”
“Sam Woodward is a hater,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says. “He hates homosexuals. He hates people who are Jewish. He hates people of all different kinds of categories who are not white.”
Bernstein’s parents say their son was a talented student and a caring person.
“He liked to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary,” says his dad, Gideon Bernstein.
“Something about this baby, he’s going to change the world someday,” Jeanne Pepper Bernstein says about the birth of Blaze. “In his own way, he did change the world. He already has.”
Smith and 48 HOURS report the story through extensive, in-depth interviews with Bernstein’s friends and family, the district attorney and more.
48 HOURS: “In the Name of Hate” is produced by James Stolz and Gayane Keshishyan Mendez. Michelle Fanucci is the field producer. Grayce Arlotta-Berner, Marcus Balsam and Phil Tangel are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.