Right-wing media falsely blame George Soros for violence and protests
In the wake of recent protests against police brutality and racial injustice that swept the country, right-wing media are predictably falling back on anti-Semitic tropes alleging that George Soros, a progressive financier and Holocaust survivor, is actively funding so-called “radical prosecutors” and destructive protests in the United States.
Conservatives, including President Donald Trump, have long obsessively and often baselessly blamed Soros for the actions of liberal groups and activists they claim he supports. Well-known right-wing commentators frequently invoke anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories in an attempt to link Soros to any protest or other action that occurs on the left. This continually delegitimizes public opposition to the current administration or its policies as the supposedly secretive work of a Jewish billionaire rather than grassroots protest efforts.
In recent months, there have been widespread protests around the country sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Since then, right-wing media outlets have increasingly spread conspiracy theories about Soros to suggest he is attempting to reshape the country by funding and enabling violence, playing into deeply harmful anti-Semitic tropes, which further incites feelings of distrust against Jews within the United States. In the space of just one week in September, right-wing media figures spread this vileness on multiple television and online outlets:
- In a now-viral clip from the September 21 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed that “left-wing megadonors like George Soros realized it’s easier to install radical DAs than it is to convince the public to let their own cities burn.” He added, “Soros has worked hard to elect district attorneys who will nullify laws against rioting and violence by failing to enforce them,” implying that the goal was to take control of the government and that the result would be a rise in crime and violence across the U.S. In a segment three days later, Carlson claimed that “billionaires are pushing riots” and “George Soros funds radical DAs who encourage more crime and allow people to get murdered” because he wants to “destabilize the country.”
- On the September 16 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich claimed the “number one problem” in various cities “is George Soros-elected, left-wing, anti-police, pro-criminal district attorneys who refuse to keep people locked up.” Co-hosts Melissa Francis and Marie Harf attempted to stop the anti-Semitic rant with Harf saying, “George Soros doesn't need to be a part of this conversation.” This action was met with harsh vitriol among right-wing media, forcing co-host Harris Faulkner to apologize for her colleagues interrupting Gingrich.
- On September 18, Newt Gingrich tweeted: “Strengthening the police will not work if the district attorneys and judges refuse to lock up the violent and predatory people who are arrested. Soros has poured millions into electing radical leftwing prosecutors who simply refuse to prosecute criminals.”
- Following Gingrich’s appearance on Outnumbered, The Washington Times published a September 19 column titled “George Soros is indeed an enabler of U.S. street violence” that built on Gingrich’s comments. According to the column, “the fact that Soros, a social justice warrior who advocates for the same types of prison reform that make up the leftist talking points -- you know, that Blacks are targeted by police for arrest, and criminals in America are too harshly treated” -- is the reason why there are supposedly “emboldened thugs in the streets right now.”
- Pushing anti-Semitic rhetoric that rich Jews are attempting to control the United States, Trump-connected attorney Victoria Toensing appeared on the pro-Trump One America News on September 18 and claimed that “prosecutors funded by George Soros” are letting “loose the rioters” to cause damage within major American cities. Toensing also cited anti-Semitic comments made by Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell on Lou Dobbs Tonight in 2018 to claim that “Soros was funding the caravans of Central American immigrants who were coming across the border,” referring to a racist and inaccurate right-wing trope used to instill fear in voters.
- During September 25 on OAN, reporter Pearson Sharp accused Soros of being “the face behind the violence,” calling him a “radical left-wing billionaire who’s been declared an enemy of the state in his home country” who “has poured over $220 million into domestic terrorist organizations like Black Lives Matter.” Sharp further claimed that Soros is “literally buying district attorneys in cities across the nation” so that “you suddenly have a candidate whose only experience as a public defender [is] trying to keep criminals out of jail” in order to push civil unrest in America.
- On Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight during September 17, attorney and former Army Ranger Ryan Cleckner blamed violence and crime on “blue DAs, many of whom, by the way, have had their campaigns funded by George Soros and other left-wing activists that just want to watch America burn,” claiming, “They’re getting what they paid for.” Carlson agreed: “You’re absolutely right. Soros did pay for a lot of this and he’s definitely getting a return for his money. He usually does.”
- In a September 19 article titled “Why Aren’t We Allowed To Talk About George Soros’s Plan To Remake America,” The Federalist pushed the argument that Soros is “buying prosecutors who are soft on crime” so as to “remake all of America into the far-left world of his dreams.” In the piece, the author dismissed “the antisemitism argument” by saying that “criticizing how an enormously wealthy individual uses his money to change a nation is not in any way related to criticism of that person’s ethnicity or religious beliefs.” However, anti-Semitism watchdogs have cautioned against the rhetoric and tropes used by right-wing media in demonizing Soros, claiming it perpetuates anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and poses a real danger to the Jewish community.
- Bruce Levell, executive director for the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, said during a September 25 appearance on Newsmax TV that Soros and the district attorneys he supposedly backed in “the majority of the Democrat cities” were allegedly “fueling” riots and “chaos” to further incite upheaval following the recent grand jury decision not to charge police for the killing of Breonna Taylor. (Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician in Louisville, Kentucky, was shot six times by plainclothes officers serving a “no-knock” search warrant in March.)
- On the September 19 edition of Newsmax TV’s Greg Kelly Reports, anchor Greg Kelly asserted that Soros “is funding these radicals, he wants to see more strife in our government and in our streets.” Racist commentator and white nationalist sympathizer Michelle Malkin responded that “he does not accept sovereignty of independent, industrialized, Western nations.” Malkin also promoted the anti-Semitic trope that “all of these groups that are being funded and, of course, all of the elected prosecutors, district attorneys, circuit attorneys, sheriffs, mayors, [and] secretaries of state … now operate under that huge umbrella” of Soros’ supposed funding. Malkin went on to declare, “People call it a conspiracy theory, I call it a conspiracy truth.”
- Appearing on Newsmax’s News In-Depth in a September 19 segment discussing “the funding from liberal billionaire George Soros and his widespread political operation,” Malkin declared that he funds “all of these district attorneys who are cogs in the so-called ‘criminal justice reform’ machine, which really means lawlessness,” and are “at the heart of protecting criminals.”