White House press secretary Sean Spicer has resurrected false claims pushed by fake news purveyors that people protesting President Donald Trump are actually bankrolled by well-funded progressive organizations. Spicer told Fox host Brian Kilmeade on February 6 that “protesting has become a profession now” and claimed that the protests have “become a very paid astroturf-type movement,” but reporters and fact-checkers have explained that no evidence exists to support those claims.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer Tells Fox & Friends That Anti-Trump Protesters Are Paid
Spicer Tells Fox News That Protesting Has Become “A Very Paid Astroturf-Type Movement.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade that he “absolutely” believed that people were being paid to protest the Trump administration’s various policies.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Do you sense, instead of being organic disruption, do you sense that there is an organized pushback and people are being paid to protest?
SEAN SPICER: Oh, absolutely. Protesting has become a profession now. They have every right to do that, don't get me wrong. But I think that we need to call it what it is. It's not these organic uprisings that we have seen through the last several decades. The tea party was a very organic movement. This has become a very paid astroturf-type movement. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/6/17]
Various Claims That Anti-Trump Protests Are Paid Efforts Have Been Repeatedly Debunked
Wash. Post: “There's Simply No Credible Evidence” That Protesters Are Motivated By Anything Besides “Legitimate Concern.” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported that claims that protesters were financially incentivized to protest President Donald Trump lacked “any grounding in reality” and that there was “no credible evidence” that protesters were motivated “by anything other than legitimate concern.” Nevertheless, Bump wrote, the claim “captured the imagination of the right” and was utilized by pro-Trump media to assist Trump. From the November 14 article:
The idea that money pours into progressive groups so that they can hire folks to dispatch around the country lacks any grounding in reality.
But it has captured the imagination of the right, bolstered by websites friendly to the president-elect. Trump benefited over the course of the campaign from the idea that the mainstream media wasn't trustworthy and that conspiracy theories articulated by friendly websites and distributed by the Drudge Report reflected reality. It has been enormously helpful to him, increasing people's uncertainty about what is and isn't true — helpful for a politician who doesn't always embrace accuracy.
There's simply no credible evidence that the opposition to Trump is spurred by anything other than legitimate concern about what his presidency might entail. Such concern could and does stem from accurate reporting by objective media outlets. [The Washington Post, 11/14/16]
PolitiFact: Blogs Claiming Marchers Were Funded By Soros Were Wrong. Several pro-Trump blogs claimed that Women’s March events across the country were not organic protests, but rather the work of billionaire George Soros. PolitiFact reported that bloggers mischaracterized an op-ed published in The New York Times to claim that marchers were “motivated by money from Soros and his Open Society Foundation” but the op-ed’s author “rejects that claim” and told PolitiFact that she “believes ‘most of the people were motivated by sincere political and ideological beliefs.’” [PolitiFact, 1/25/17]
PolitiFact: No One Was Paid $3,500 To Protest Trump. In 2016, bloggers and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski spread a fake news story that claimed a protester was paid $3,500 to protest a Trump rally. PolitiFact sourced the claim to a “100 percent fabricated” article created by a man who “posts fake news on a variety of websites.” [PolitiFact, 11/17/16]
Fake News Purveyors Have Repeatedly Spread Paid-Protester Claims
Gateway Pundit: “Astroturf Protesters Show Up To Protest Trump Pick.” Fake news purveyor The Gateway Pundit claimed that protesters’ pre-printed signs opposing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee were evidence that the protesters were “Soros puppets with astroturfed signs.” From the February 1 post:
As soon as the announcement was over a small group of astroturf protesters showed up outside the US Supreme Court with preprinted posters. This clearly was not a spontaneous group but like all Democratic protests, these people were pre-planned and pre-organized like their posters. Since George Soros is involved in most all Democrat protests, It is highly likely that these too were Soros puppets with astroturfed signs. [The Gateway Pundit, 2/1/17; Media Matters, 12/14/16]
Right Wing News: Liberal Protests Are Either “Astroturfed From The Get Go” Or Receive Major Donors Along The Way. Fake news purveyor Right Wing News claimed that protests against Trump are all either events organized by major donors or hijacked grass-roots campaigns. Right Wing News also suggested anti-Trump protesters have a “symbiotic relationship” with violent protesters. From the February 4 post:
This is all what has been shown for so long: the protests are either astroturfed from the get go, or, what was grassroots quickly became a well funded demonstration, which typically includes violence. If the liberals didn’t want these “black bloc” folks showing up, they’d tell them to stay away. They’d force them out. Instead, there’s a symbiotic relationship occurring. [Right Wing News, 2/4/17; Media Matters, 12/14/16]
USA Politics Today: “Latest Anti-Trump Protests Are Being Paid And Organized By Trump’s Biggest Enemy!” Fake news purveyor USA Politics Today published a post that cited Soros’ prior statements that he would resist Trump’s policies to assert that Soros is “funding all these protests and public outcries.” From the January 31 post:
[George] Soros said that he is going to fight Trump with all he has. He is using all his wealth to undermine Trump and make him one term president!
Also, he is trying to block Trump, to make him a prisoner in the White House, to tie his hands so that he can do nothing! That’s why Soros is funding all of these protests and public outcries! [USA Politics Today, 1/31/17; Media Matters, 12/14/16]
Truthfeed: George Soros Funded Riots At UC Berkeley. Fake news purveyor Truthfeed baselessly claimed that violent protesters at University of California, Berkeley’s Milo Yiannopoulos speaking event were “funded and bussed in by Communist and Hillary backer George Soros.” From the February 4 post:
The Democrat terror group known as “Antifa” went on the attack Wednesday night at UC Berkeley.
The masked terror group set fires, knocked out innocent Trump supporters, and successfully shut down free speech at the Milo Yiannopoulos campus event.
Political Insider: Protesters Offered “Big Money” To Disrupt Inauguration. Fake news purveyor The Political Insider cited debunked claims that a left-wing group was offering monthly salaries to people who agreed to work as on-call protestors. The Political Insider claimed the mission of the group was to “give plenty of visuals for the anti-Trump liberal media to use on television.” From the January 17 post:
Internet searchers have found publicly posted ads which purport to hire individuals to protest and disrupt President-elect Donald J. Trump’s inauguration this week in Washington, D.C.
The ad was posted in 20 different cities by an organization named “Demand Protest.” They say they are paying people $2,500 per month on top of $50/hour for each protest they actively take part in!
The purpose of left-wing protests are to make the protests look far worse than they would otherwise be, and give plenty of visuals for the anti-Trump liberal media to use on television. [The Political Insider, 1/17/2017; Media Matters, 12/14/16; The Washington Post, 1/18/17]
Before It’s News: 1,000 “Paid Protesters” Appeared At JFK Airport To “Cause Havoc.” Fake news purveyor Before It’s News claimed that protesters who went to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to speak out against Trump’s Muslim ban were “paid protesters.” From the January 17 post:
JFK Airport is usually one big cluster – it’s huge.
Last night a “Flash Mob” came to the Airport to protest President Trumps Ban on the Importation of Terrorist into the United States.
What appears to be around 1,000 paid protesters (Terrorists) showed up with signs and Megaphones to scream and holler and otherwise cause havoc at the Airport. [Before It’s News, 1/17/2017; Media Matters, 12/14/16]
GOP The Daily Dose: Left-Wing Protesters “Are Getting Paid To Do It.” Fake news purveyor The Daily Dose claimed that “the left’s strategy” is to encourage unemployed people to start “making money by rioting and causing havoc,” claiming that protesters could care less “about the cause” and care “more about the paycheck.” From the January 16 post:
This is the left’s strategy. Get the unemployed people (whom Obama ensured didn’t have jobs) out and on the streets making money by rioting and causing havoc. Notice how ever left wing protest, their people are getting paid to do it… AKA these people could careless about the cause and more about the paycheck. [GOP The Daily Dose, 1/16/17; Media Matters, 12/14/16]