O'Reilly Factor guest Richard Poe smeared George Soros:; A Media Matters for America analysis of a NewsMax cover story

In his May 2004 NewsMax magazine cover story, titled "George Soros' Coup," contributing editor Richard Poe made several factual errors and misrepresentations in attempting to discredit financier, philanthropist, and political activist George Soros. Media Matters for America first reported on Poe's NewsMax cover story on May 19, the day after Poe appeared on FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor to discuss the cover story. As Media Matters for America detailed in the May 19 report, Poe is a font of conservative misinformation, as is NewsMax magazine (a monthly right-wing publication with a history of publishing baseless conspiracy theories about Democrats) and NewsMax.com. Soros, who is founder and chairman of Open Society Institute (OSI), has contributed generously to progressive organizations -- including America Coming Together, MoveOn.org, and the Campaign for America's Future. Following is an analysis of "George Soros' Coup."

  • Poe wrote, “The Federal Election Commission places no limits on donations to the shadowy 527s and requires no disclosure of the donors and the amounts they have given. Consequently, no one really knows how much money Soros has lavished -- or will -- on the Democrats this year.” [Poe, NewsMax magazine, 5/04, p.14]

It's true that the Federal Election Commission doesn't require disclosure of donors to 527s -- but that's because the Internal Revenue Service does. Anyone -- including Poe -- who wishes to know how much money Soros is giving to 527s can find out easily enough; the Center for Public Integrity maintains an easy-to-use database of 527 contributions. This isn't difficult information to find: The second result in a Google search for “527” is an IRS Web page explaining 527 disclosure; the third result is the Center for Public Integrity's 527 page, which includes links to its database.

  • Poe wrote, “Michael Vachon insists that, 'George Soros rejects violence.' Vachon does admit, however, that Soros funds groups 'that may or may not organize demonstrations.' When 'open society' is at stake, Soros has never hesitated to fund activist groups that take to the streets to challenge the government.” [Poe, NewsMax magazine, 5/04, p. 22]

Some “admission”! All groups “may or may not” organize demonstrations. And “demonstrations” are a far cry from the “violence” Poe seems to imply Soros-funded groups engage in.

  • Poe wrote, “Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin is cleaning house. He is cracking down on the 'oligarchs,' the seven multibillionaires who have been calling the shots in Russia since 1993. As their power wanes, Soros' empire appears to be waning with them. Oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Soros ally with a net worth in excess of $15 billion, was arrested in October 2003 on charges ranging from tax evasion to fraud. Soros accused Putin of political 'persecution,' declaring: 'I believe [Khodorkovsky] acted within the constraints of the law in supporting political parties. I am doing the same in the United States.' The Kremlin might not have appreciated Soros' remarks. The following month, a paramilitary team of at least 50 men in camouflage fatigues, some armed with stun guns, evicted his Open Society Institute from its Moscow offices, confiscating computers and documents. Police refused to intervene.” [Poe, NewsMax magazine, 5/04, p. 22]

Contrary to Poe's implication that the Russian government was in some way involved in the eviction of OSI from its Moscow offices, the Los Angeles Times reported on November 18, 2003, “The institute's Russian branch was thrown out of its offices earlier this month in a midnight raid by private security forces hired by a businessman who says that the institute owes several million dollars in back rent and unpaid utility bills. The institute says it is resisting an illegal shakedown. The businessman, Kantemir Karamzin, has repeatedly lost to the foundation in court battles over the property. Equipment and records were confiscated by Karamzin's people.”

  • Poe wrote, “Soros founded the Project on Death in America. Its goal was to encourage people to overcome their fear of death and to embrace the inevitable. Project on Death promoted suicide and euthanasia.” [Poe, NewsMax magazine, 5/04, p. 25]

The Project on Death in America (PDIA) does nothing of the kind. To cite just one example of how PDIA and its leadership have opposed euthanasia: PDIA program director Dr. Kathleen Foley (a world-renowned cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center) edited a book titled The Case Against Assisted Suicide: For the Right to End-of-Life Care.

  • Poe wrote, “In a Nov. 30, 1994 speech justifying Project on Death, Soros asked, 'Can we afford to care for the dying properly? ... [But] [a]ggressive, life-prolonging interventions, which may at times go against the patient's wishes, are much more expensive than proper care for the dying.' And what did Soros mean by 'proper' care for the dying? He wasted no time in addressing that point. 'This brings me to that hotly debated subject, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia,' he continued in the next sentence.” [Poe, NewsMax magazine, 5/04, p. 26]

Why didn't Poe tell us what Soros actually said about “that hotly debated subject”? Because, while Soros indicated that he personally thinks physician-assisted suicide should be legal, he explicitly said PDIA does not take that position. By truncating Soros's remarks, Poe created the misleading impression that Soros “justified” PDIA by speaking in favor of euthanasia -- despite that Soros clearly said that PDIA has nothing to do with euthanasia:

“I must emphasize that I am speaking in my personal capacity and not on behalf of the Board of the Project on Death in America. There are members of the Board who take a different position and the Board as a whole wants to steer clear of the issue because it feels it has plenty to do before opening that Pandora's box. Instead of getting embroiled in the debate on physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, they want to support the training of health care professionals, enabling them to provide humane, compassionate care to the dying, including improved physician-patient communication, patient-centered care, better physician judgment on withdrawing or withholding care, and familiarity with the principles and practices of palliative care.

”As founder of the project, I respect their judgment. I believe in personal autonomy; I believe people should be allowed to determine their own end. But I also recognize that legalizing euthanasia could have unintended consequences, leading to all kind of abuses. The issues need to be carefully weighed, but I accept that this is not the first priority of the Project. Very few terminally ill patients would avail themselves of the opportunity even if euthanasia were legalized. After all, my mother refused my help and I am glad she did. The Project on Death in America concerns itself with the vast majority of people who are not looking for physician-assisted suicide and they have their work cut out for them." [Soros speech, 11/30/94, emphasis added]

  • On the May 18 edition of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, Poe and host Bill O'Reilly agreed that Soros is opposed to religion. Poe said Soros is a “militant atheist ... he makes it very plain that he considers people who are born again Christians and presumably people who are devout believers of any sort are idiots who should not hold public office.” O'Reilly responded, “All right, so he wants an open society, Soros does. And that means a secular society, no trace of religion in it or spirituality...” [FOX News Channel, The O'Reilly Factor, 5/18/04]

A quick look at Soros's Open Society Institute website reveals that if Soros really wants a “secular society” with “no trace of religion in it,” he's going about it all wrong: OSI has made numerous contributions to religious organizations. Recent OSI grants to religious organizations include:

Associated Catholic Charities, Inc.: $425,000
Catholic Charities - Diocese of Brooklyn: $110,000
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.: $120,000
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.: $60,000
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: $80,000
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: $60,000
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois: $45,000
Protestants for the Common Good: $10,000
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Educational Fund: $125,000
United Church of Christ: $25,000

  • Poe wrote, “From a moral standpoint, the moment of truth for Soros came when he set up shop on Soviet soil. As a self-styled crusader for liberty, he found himself in a unique position to slay the Bolshevik dragon in its lair. But greed overcame him. Squeezing profit from Mother Russia proved more seductive to Soros than liberating her.” Throughout his article, Poe criticized Soros's involvement in the former Soviet Union. [Poe, NewsMax magazine, 5/04, p. 19]

Yet on page 26, Poe conceded -- almost as an afterthought, “It is true that his machinations in the former Soviet bloc have tended to strengthen U.S. influence in that region while diminishing Russia's.” [Poe, NewsMax magazine, 5/04, p. 26]