Democracy Dies in Darkness

Politics

U.S. agency vows to investigate broadcast report that called George Soros a ‘multimillionaire Jew’

October 29, 2018 at 7:58 PM

A Radio and Television Martí report also called liberal philanthropist George Soros, shown above, “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008.” (Luke Macgregor/Reuters)

A U.S. government agency has launched an internal investigation after airing a Spanish-language program earlier this year describing George Soros as a “multimillionaire Jew” and espousing conspiracy theories about the billionaire philanthropist.

The 15-minute segment was aired in May by Radio and Television Martí, which broadcasts news and other programs promoting U.S. interests to audiences in Cuba.

The program calls Soros a “nonpracticing Jew of flexible morals,” claims that he was involved in “clandestine operations that led to the dismantling of the Soviet Union” and describes him as “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008.”

It also makes repeated references to Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that has launched an “Expose Soros” fundraising campaign and whose director of investigations and research recently claimed without evidence that the “Soros-occupied State Department” is funding the migrant caravan making its way to the United States.

John F. Lansing, CEO and director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Radio and Television Martí’s parent office, said in a statement Monday that a probe is underway and described the video segment as “inconsistent with our professional standards and ethics.”

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The billionaire philanthropist has long been a point of conversation for Fox network hosts and guests alike. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

“Those deemed responsible for this production will be immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct,” Lansing said. “Disciplinary action appropriate under federal law may then be proposed, including the potential removal of those responsible, depending on the outcome of that investigation.”

USAGM, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, oversees the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, to which Miami-based Radio and Television Martí belongs.

The videos were first surfaced on Friday by the Cuban Triangle, a blog affiliated with the nonprofit Cuba Research Center, and were also reported by Mother Jones. The original videos have been taken down from the Radio and Television Martí website, but snippets are still accessible on YouTube.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Monday night, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said he was pleased that USAGM was taking action to discipline the employees responsible for the program.

“At best, TV and Radio Martí are pretty irrelevant,” said Flake, who has long argued that the broadcaster is inefficient and a waste of federal dollars. But “when you have an agenda like this, basically to smear George Soros and provide a platform for anti-Semitic views, to be paid for by the U.S. taxpayer,” then things have reached a new and “pernicious” level, he said.

Soros’s Open Society Institute also sent a letter on Monday to USAGM and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in which it denounced the broadcast as a “flagrant and crude propaganda television program,” disputed its claims and called for the matter to be investigated.

In an initial statement to Mother Jones on Friday, Office of Cuba Broadcasting Director Tomás Regalado acknowledged that the anti-Soros program “did not have the required balance,” although he defended Judicial Watch as “a good source.” Regalado, who was previously mayor of Miami, also noted that he became director of the office after the program had already aired.

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The Washington Post's Aaron Blake and David Nakamura analyze why President Trump's inflamed political rhetoric is being tied to a string of recent crises. (JM Rieger /The Washington Post)

Flake then drew attention to the program on Saturday with a tweet in which he called it “taxpayer-funded anti-semitism.” He followed up with a letter to Lansing earlier Monday calling for an investigation into how the program came to be produced.

“At a time when hate-filled rhetoric is having a devastating impact inside the United States, it is irresponsible for any agency of the federal government to perpetuate unfounded conspiracy theories that far from supporting U.S. foreign policy goals, work against them,” Flake wrote.

Even though the program aired earlier this year, the reports of its airing come one week after Soros was among a group of prominent Democrats and critics of President Trump who were targeted by mail bombs allegedly sent by a Florida man.

Fears of anti-Semitism and political violence in the United States have also been on the rise in the wake of Saturday’s mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Eleven people were killed and six wounded in the massacre, which was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Radio Martí began broadcasts to Cuba in 1985; TV Martí followed suit five years later. Critics argue that the broadcasts, which are largely blocked by Cuba’s government, are of questionable quality and have had a negligible effect on Cuban society, although proponents maintain that they advance U.S. interests and provide a useful alternative to the island’s state-run media.

Regalado was appointed director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in June, after a period of turmoil in the office.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Regalado had succeeded former interim director André Mendes. Mendes had left the office in March, two months before the Soros program aired.

Karen DeYoung and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.


Felicia Sonmez is a national political reporter covering breaking news from the White House, Congress and the campaign trail. She was previously based in Beijing, where she worked for Agence France-Presse and The Wall Street Journal.

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