Furthering his long history of smearing George Soros, Glenn Beck advanced former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's anti-Semitic claim that Soros was "helped trigger the economic meltdown" of Southeast Asian currencies in 1997, which Mahathir had reportedly suggested was part of a Jewish "agenda." In fact, Soros and other hedge funds were found not to be primarily responsible for the currency crisis, and Mahathir later retracted the claim.
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Beck advances Mahathir's anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Soros plotted to collapse Malaysian currency
Beck: "[M]any, including the Malaysian prime minister, believe it was billionaire speculator George Soros who helped trigger the [Southeast Asian] economic meltdown" in 1997. In an extended segment attacking Soros for, according to Beck, "speculating against and driving down the value of currencies" during the October 5 edition of his Fox News show, Beck claimed Soros "rolled the dice in '97 in Asia, and many, including the Malaysian prime minister, believe it was billionaire speculator George Soros who helped trigger the economic meltdown that spread through Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines."
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir: "We have definite information" that Soros was "involved" in speculation of Southeast Asian currencies. In a September 29, 1997, interview, Fortune magazine's Neel Chowdhury asked then-Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad: "On what basis have you accused Mr. Soros of speculating on the Malaysian ringgit and other regional currencies?" Mahathir responded: "We have definite information that he is involved. Of course, he is not the only one. Others followed suit. But he started it." He added that Soros "had this idea that by applying pressure on Thailand and Malaysia he could prevent Myanmar from joining ASEAN."
Mahathir: "We do not want to say that this is a plot by the Jews," but "coincidentally Soros is a Jew." In an October 10, 1997, report from the Malaysian newspaper Berita Harian (excerpted by BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, accessed via Nexis), Mahathir was quoted as saying: "We do not want to say that this is a plot by the Jews, but in reality it is a Jew who triggered the currency plunge, and coincidentally Soros is a Jew. It is also a coincidence that the Malaysians are mostly Muslim." From the report:
Kuala Terengganu, 10th October: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that the government suspects that the Jews have an agenda to destroy the economy of this country and other Muslim countries. Also Dr Mahathir did not reject the possibility that the attack on the local currency was to shut his mouth so that he would stop criticizing George Soros, a Jew who hailed from Hungary. "We do not want to say that this is a plot by the Jews, but in reality it is a Jew who triggered the currency plunge, and coincidentally Soros is a Jew. It is also a coincidence that the Malaysians are mostly Muslim."
"Indeed, the Jews are not happy to see Muslims. If it were Palestine, the Jews would rob Palestinians. Thus this is what they are doing to our country," he said when referring to Soros' involvement in the depreciation of the ringgit.
Dr Mahathir said this before a mass gathering at the Sultan Mahmud Airport in Kuala Terengganu, this afternoon. About 15,000 members of UMNO (United Malays National Organization), National Front component parties, and senior government officials participated in the gathering to express their support for Dr Mahathir's leadership as the prime minister.
NY Times: Mahathir "suggested that Malaysia's troubles might be the result of a Jewish 'agenda.' " On October 16, 1997, The New York Times reported that Mahathir "suggested that Malaysia's troubles might be the result of a Jewish 'agenda' to weaken the economy of this country of about 20 million people. " The Times added:
''We may suspect that they have an agenda, but we do not want to accuse,'' Dr. Mahathir, who has made anti-Jewish statements in the past, was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency. ''And incidentally we are Muslims, and the Jews are not happy to see the Muslims progress. The Jews robbed the Palestinians of everything, but in Malaysia they could not do so, hence they do this, depress the ringgit.''
Mahathir later denied blaming a Jewish agenda, claiming he "merely stated" that Soros "is Jewish." According to an October 11, 1997, Agence France-Presse (AFP) article (accessed via Nexis), Mahathir later denied that he was suggesting a Jewish agenda resulted in his country's economic crisis:
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad Saturday said he did not accuse the Jews of undermining the economy of Malaysia and other Moslem countries.
"I merely stated that this person (American financier George Soros) is Jewish," Mahathir was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency in the Moslem dominated eastern coastal state of Terengganu.
Members of Congress introduced resolution condemning Mahathir for "anti-American and anti-Semitic remarks." On October 22, 1997, Congressmen Robert Wexler (D-FL), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), and Tom Lantos (D-CA) submitted a concurrent resolution condemning Mahathir for his "anti-Semitic remarks," including his "characterization of a 'Jewish agenda' to destroy the Malaysian economy." The resolution was cosponsored by several Republican Congressmen, including Peter King (R-NY), J.C. Watts (R-OK), and Frank Wolf (R-VA).
In fact, Mahathir later conceded that Soros was "not involved in the devaluation of the Malaysian currency"
Soros denied his hedge fund contributed to devaluing Malaysian currency, said Mahathir was using him "as a scapegoat for his own mistakes." The Los Angeles Times reported on September 22, 1997 that "Soros denied that his hedge fund, the $9.1-billion Quantum Fund, had a role in devaluing the ringgit; in his own speech [at the World Bank conference], he said that ironically the buying of Malaysian currency during the crash helped buffer the impact. Mahathir, he claimed, was using him 'as a scapegoat for his own mistakes.' "
Bank for International Settlements: "[L]ittle concrete evidence that hedge funds" were "triggering or even intensifying" Southeast Asian currency crisis. According to the 68th annual report of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), "[T]here is little concrete evidence that hedge funds as a group were heavily involved in triggering or even intensifying the series of South-East Asian currency depreciations." From the report:
Hedge funds have acquired notoriety because of their aggressive investment practices and the relative secrecy of their activities. However, despite often-cited anecdotal reports, there is little concrete evidence that hedge funds as a group were heavily involved in triggering or even intensifying the series of South-East Asian currency depreciations. In the absence of publicly available figures on hedge fund positions, Graph V.8 presents statistical estimates of aggregate portfolio exposures for a group of funds specialising in global investments, including currencies, to Asia and Latin America during the period 1994-97. The exposures have been derived from the estimated sensitivity of the hedge funds' reported returns to the underlying markets and the funds' size. The graph shows that, while there was considerable exposure to Asia at the beginning of 1997, these long positions were substantially reduced a few months before the crisis. At the same time, positions were built up in Latin American countries. Moreover, on the basis of this analysis there appears to be no statistical evidence that these funds as a group had extensive short positions against Asian currencies at any time during or after the summer of 1997.
NY Times: "Hedge fund managers like George Soros did not conspire to sell Asian currencies" in 1997. Reporting on the BIS analysis, The New York Times stated in a June 9, 1998, article: "Hedge fund managers like George Soros did not conspire to sell Asian currencies last year and touch off the capital flight that set off the economic slowdown that now grips the region, the Bank for International Settlements said today in its annual report."
Mahathir eventually stated that he "accepted" that "Mr Soros said he was not involved in the devaluation of the Malaysian currency." As AFP reported in an October 15, 2006, article, Mahathir met with Soros and said of their meeting: "Mr Soros said he was not involved in the devaluation of the Malaysian currency and that other people were involved. And I have accepted that."