It was probably only a matter of time before President Donald Trump blamed Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros for widespread protests against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. And like racist moths to a flame, Trump’s supporters on the extreme right raced to support the president’s anti-Semitic assertion.
Trump’s tweet, which came shortly before the Senate voted to move ahead with Kavanaugh’s nomination, revealed his true thoughts about a pair of sexual assault survivors who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in an elevator last week.
The two women stopped Flake and made him listen to their stories of sexual harassment and assault, asking Flake to simply answer whether or not he believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. According to Trump, however, the move was apparently little more than the work of “rude elevator screamers” and “paid professionals” who were “[p]aid for by Soros.”
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
The conspiracy theory claiming the two women were secretly working at the behest of Soros — a favorite target of far-right governments and anti-Semitic factions across Europe — began to spread among the far-right shortly after the Flake confrontation made news. Led by Fox News personalities like Laura Ingraham, the claim positioned the two women not as survivors, but as pawns for Soros. (The theory does not explain why Soros would care one way or the other about sexual abuse allegations.)
On Friday, the conspiracy apparently reached the ears of its intended target: Trump. Trump has never tweeted before about Soros, as ThinkProgress’ Frank Dale noted Friday, but seemingly decided to align himself with the other conspiracy theorists blaming Soros as a potential confirmation vote for Kavanaugh looms.
Trump’s tweet, which played to the anti-Semites who have long flocked to his side, was a watershed of sorts. While the comparisons between Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have been myriad — especially as it pertains to the disdain with which both leaders clearly hold liberal democracy — Trump’s Friday tweet effectively solidified that comparison. For years, Orban has cited Soros as an excuse to implode Hungary’s democratic underpinnings, blaming Soros for everything from an influx of refugees to embattled opposition voices still in Hungary. Under Orban’s rule, Hungary has effectively shed the trappings of liberal democracy, and slid toward outright authoritarianism.
The far-right has echoed Orban’s anti-Soros rhetoric across East and Central Europe, from Poland to Romania to Russia, with a range of anti-Semitic voices pointing to Soros as the supposed reason for the social ills plaguing post-communist nations. And now, those voices include the American president.
Ridiculous smears against civil society that we watched spread for years across the former Soviet Union, then Eastern & Central Europe, then Western Europe, are now also commonplace within the US.
— Nate Schenkkan (@nateschenkkan) October 5, 2018
White supremacists and other members of the far-right quickly turned out to praise Trump’s anti-Soros turn on Friday. White supremacist Paul Ramsey, for instance, called for the U.S. to “follow Hungary’s example and implement [a] Stop Soros law.” The so-called “Stop Soros” law effectively prohibits those in Hungary from helping, in any manner or form, individuals or immigrants who are undocumented.
US needs to follow Hungary's example and implement an Stop Soros law. https://t.co/gRQhPjjkk6
— RAMZPAUL (@ramzpaul) October 5, 2018
Ramsey has spent considerable time in Budapest, and has praised Orban’s authoritarian policies ad nauseum. He’s worked to consistently elevate anti-Soros rhetoric for his American followers, and has even described Orban — and Russian President Vladimir Putin — as a “her[o] to the Alt Right.” (Disclaimer: This reporter has written in the past for EurasiaNet, which was once funded by Open Society Foundations, which was itself founded by Soros.)
Other conspiracy theorists also picked up on Trump’s tweet. White supremacist Kevin MacDonald decried the claims that Trump’s anti-Soros tweet was actually anti-Semitic. Jack Posobiec, perhaps best known for once reportedly holding a “Rape Melania” sign in public, shared Trump’s tweets with his followers, saying only, “Soros!”
A few hours before Trump’s tweet, Paul Joseph Watson added his conspiratorial voice to the din, claiming that the anti-Kavanaugh push was actually a “Soros-funded campaign.”
Needless to say, the social media site Gab, a favorite of white supremacists, was stocked with all kinds of praise for Trump. As one user wrote, “Of all the presidential tweets that hint of an internal war for the soul of America and the world, perhaps none more directly thrown down the gauntlet than” Trump’s tweet about Soros.
One “Gab Pro” user, the British Columbia-based Jamie Schneider, summed up the day’s reactions about fellow white supremacists. As Schneider wrote, “A day where Trump calls out Soros by name is a good day.”