Right-wing media is now fascinated with a fairly small detail of the protests in Louisville, Kentucky: a small U-Haul truck that was seen handing out paraphernalia such as protest signs and homemade shields to a rushing crowd. And this, they now say, is proof of external financing to rile up demonstrations into violence.
A quick online search on the U-Haul website using a Louisville ZIP code showed a quoted price of $29.95, plus 79 cents per mile, for a truck that would resemble the one shown in a video making the rounds on Twitter.
The protests in Louisville follow a grand jury’s decision not to hand down murder charges against the police responsible for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in her apartment in March. Only one former police detective has been charged with wanton endangerment — not for killing Taylor, but for firing his weapon into her neighbors’ apartments. Taylor’s family this month received a $12 million settlement from the city for her wrongful death. In the continued protests since Wednesday, 127 people have been arrested, while two police officers have been shot and are in stable condition. (CBS News also reports that a suspect is in custody, and it is not immediately clear whether the shooting was in connection with the protests.)
The right-wing site Gateway Pundit — which has frequently spread hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and other false reports — posted a report on Wednesday claiming to have identified the individual who rented the truck, alleging that she is a Louisville resident and activist with a local protest organizing group called the Louisville Bail Initiative.
And then through a sort of six degrees of separation, the site has also used an association with somebody else in that group to connect the whole thing to a much more famous person: George Soros, a liberal philanthropist and frequent target of anti-Semitic smears and conspiracy theories from right-wing media. (Another person in the bail group is listed as a former Soros Justice Fellow, meaning they once received a grant or did other work through his pro-democracy nonprofit, the Open Society Foundations.)
As it spread to other right-wing sites, Fox News host Mark Levin seized on this report to call for an investigation of Soros — apparently thinking it must take secret funding from a billionaire to rent a U-Haul.
On Wednesday’s edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, the fake populist host and frozen food heir was suspicious: “So the obvious question is who is paying for all of this? Who is organizing it? It is organized, and it's expensive, and someone is doing that. … The most privileged people in our society are funding our society’s destruction.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted her own question about the situation:
Charlie Kirk, podcaster and head of the right-wing group Turning Point USA, also tweeted that the U-Haul truck was an example of “organized and financed domestic terrorism.”
On the Thursday morning edition of Fox & Friends, Rob Smith of Turning Point USA also had questions: “My thoughts, as soon as I saw that video is who is funding this? Who is organizing this? Who is out there exploiting the pain and fear and emotions of African Americans on the street right now in Louisville in order to incite riots and violence and destruction? This stuff was obviously planned. So we really need to know who is funding this stuff. We really need to know where the money is coming from. And we really need to know who is behind this stuff.”
Later in the program, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) about the U-Haul truck and attempted to link it to yet another debunked conspiracy theory about ongoing protests: The idea that bricks and other construction materials found at or near construction sites were really part of a secretly coordinated and financed nationwide plot to plant weapons for protesters.
“You know, we’ve seen the pallets of bricks being dropped off in New York a couple of months ago,” Kilmeade said. “We have seen a van pull up with bats in it, also in New York. And then yesterday, this video of a U-Haul pulling up, opening up the back, everyone knew exactly where it would be and where to go. They show up and out come shields, out come signs, out come mostly anti-police signs, and out come the riot gear.”
Kilmeade also later asked Detroit Police Chief James Craig about the U-Haul. In his answer, Craig falsely claimed that the U-Haul had to have been put there by “outsiders” from the community.
“That wasn't a surprise. I expected it to happen,” Craig answered. “Many of us across this country who have dealt with the violence — and certainly, Detroit didn't have much violence throughout the 100-plus days, but it's coordinated, it's planned — and not to mention, it's financed. The question is, who is financing it? And these folks are outsiders of the municipality they are in.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity also tweeted about the alleged Soros connection, too — further claiming the homemade wooden shields in the truck constituted “weapons.”
The linked article on Hannity’s site declares: “While there has yet to be a direct confirmation that Soros is funding the group, it is all too coincidental. There is a good chance that the billionaire investor and philanthropist is either directly or indirectly involved, but we will have to wait until the full truth comes out.”