Right-wing figures, including now President Donald Trump, have taken to blaming George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire who supports liberal groups and causes, for the controversy surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and in doing so are tapping into a deep-seated anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
This morning, Trump tweeted that the anti-Kavanaugh protesters on Capitol Hill confronting lawmakers who have decided to overlook credible witness testimony that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman and to brush off the outright lies he told during his nomination hearing so that they can confirm him to the Supreme Court are being paid by Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale reported that it was the first time Trump had mentioned Soros. Trump tweeted:
The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2018
Earlier that morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley had made the same claim on Fox Business.
Maria Bartiromo asked Chuck Grassley this morning if he thinks George Soros is paying the elevator protesters. “I have heard so many people believe that. I tend to believe it,” Grassley said. Trump tweeted the accusation about 80 minutes later pic.twitter.com/az8QtMZwma
— Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) October 5, 2018
On the surface, Soros conspiracy theories serve as a tried-and-true conservative answer to explain away any political happening that poses a threat to their power. But beneath that veneer, Soros conspiracy theories trace back to longstanding anti-Semitic tropes, such as the fabricated “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” that have filtered into the mainstream conservative discourse. Over the years, Soros’ name has often been invoked as a dog whistle to grander conspiracy theories about a supposed Jewish plot to subvert the world’s interests and crumble otherwise civil societies in the name of world domination. For example, on The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi blog operated by Andrew Anglin, Soros is frequently identified at the center of hardcore anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
But for years, right-wing media personalities have whitewashed the more overt anti-Semitic implications from Soros conspiracy theories so as to make them more palatable for more mainstream conservative audiences. Instead of blaming the Jews, right-wing media personalities simply blame Soros. One of the most aggressive figures in that effort, arguably, was then-Fox News host Glenn Beck, who was fixated on Soros and regularly portrayed him as an evil genius controlling the left. Beck even suggested that Soros had survived World War II by collaborating with the Nazis. At one point, Beck was even convinced that Soros wanted to kill him. (Needless to say, Beck is still alive.)
Behold “The Tentacles Of George Soros.” And yes, it does now include John Kasich: pic.twitter.com/nRU7i64JPx
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) March 22, 2016
Beck is not alone in his thinking—in fact, Soros conspiracy theories exist as a staple in modern far-right media diets, in America and abroad. Sandy Rios, a Religious Right radio host and the American Family Association’s governmental affairs director, has speculated that Soros may have orchestrated the 2008 financial crash in America to fulfill a larger secret plot to elect President Obama. Retired General Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, said something similar.
Infowars host Alex Jones suggested that Soros had ordered a mass shooting at a school earlier this year to escalate tensions in America. Pat Robertson thought that Soros paid people to protest Trump’s travel ban last year. Former Infowars Washington bureau chief Jerome Corsi prayed in August to remove “all voting machines that are funded and backed by George Soros.”
At the Gateway Eagle Council gathering of right-wing figures in St. Louis last month, awards were conferred on two members of European parliaments who belong to far-right parties in their respective countries and who have invoked Soros in their quests for public influence. They were Petr Bystron of German’s Alternative für Deustchland (AfD) party, and Dominik Tarczynski of Poland’s Law and Justice party. In remarks dripping with contempt for Chancellor Angela Merkle of Germany, Tarczinski said that Merkle knew nothing of politics; she only knew Soros’ money.
And that’s barely scratching the surface.
Trump is not the first world leader to name-drop Soros. In July, Russian president Vladimir Putin name-checked Soros and the far-right fawned. Similarly, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has repeatedly attacked Soros, to the cheers of the Religious Right.
In Hungary, Soros’ foundations closed up shop in May, following a constant barrage of rhetorical attacks on Soros and his Open Society Foundation by Orban. But that didn’t stop the authoritarian government from passing legislation dubbed the “Stop Soros” law. As explained by Vox’s Zach Beauchamp, the law “creates a new category of crime… banning individuals and organizations from providing any kind of assistance to undocumented immigrants.” From Beauchamp’s June 22 article:
Hungary’s government framed the bill as a check on the influence of Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who funds pro-democracy activism around the world. Orbán has fingered Soros (who is also a favorite villain of the American right) as the source of an international plot to destroy Hungary through migration. He often launches attacks on the billionaire in strikingly anti-Semitic terms.
“We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world,” Orban said in a characteristic anti-Soros tirade in March.
At the World Congress of Families conference last month in Chișinău, Moldova, Soros was cast as a destroyer of traditional families. From our report:
At the WCF, the European Union, the LGBTQ rights movement, and civil society organizations supported by philanthropist George Soros were vilified as threats to the family and as “aggressive” promoters of “political correctness” and “gender ideology”–an umbrella term used by social conservative activists that can include LGBTQ equality, abortion rights, and sex education.