Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) is coming under criticism for falsely claiming in an interview that billionaire philanthropist George Soros, known for his funding of liberal and pro-democracy groups, “helped take the property” owned by fellow Jews.
Patrick Gaspard, president of Soros’s Open Society Foundations, sent a letter to Gohmert on Thursday afternoon asking him to apologize for the “disturbing and false anti-Semitic slur.”
In an interview Thursday morning with Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney, Gohmert spoke about Google’s plans to build a censored search engine in China. At one point in the interview, Gohmert pivoted from discussing the tech giant to making accusations against Soros, who is frequently the subject of conspiracy theories and in October was among the prominent critics of President Trump to whom a Florida man allegedly mailed pipe bombs.
“You mention Orwell. It also reminds me of another George — George Soros — you know, because Google is born in a free country, and then they go over and oppress others — help oppress — in another country,” Gohmert told Varney. “George Soros is supposed to be Jewish, but you wouldn’t know it from the damage he’s inflicted on Israel, and the fact that he turned on fellow Jews and helped take the property that they owned. It’s the same kind of thing.” George Orwell was a British author.
Varney moved on without addressing Gohmert’s statements. He later distanced himself and the network from Gohmert’s views, the Daily Beast reported.
“Congressman Louie Gohmert for some reason went out of his way to bring up George Soros and made unsubstantiated and false allegations against him. I want to make clear those views are not shared by me, this program or anyone at Fox Business,” Varney said.
Gohmert on Thursday was referencing a false claim that Soros helped the Nazis confiscate property from Jews during World War II.
Soros has said he used false papers to survive the Nazi occupation when he was 13 years old living in Hungary. The allegation that he is a Nazi who turned in fellow Jews and stole their wealth is “a total fabrication,” Soros told The Washington Post earlier this year, saying such charges “annoy me greatly.”
On Thursday afternoon, Gohmert doubled down on his remarks, which he argued were “not anti-Semitic” but rather “pro-Jewish.”
“Soros himself admitted in a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft on December 20, 1998, that he had no regrets whatsoever about assisting the Nazis in confiscating property from the Jewish people during the Holocaust,” Gohmert said in a statement released by his office. “That is a fact.”
Yet a transcript of the “60 Minutes” interview published by the fact-checking website Snopes shows that, after initially appearing to agree with Kroft that he “helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews,” Soros later clarified that he “was only a spectator.”
“I had no role in taking away that property,” Soros said. “So I had no sense of guilt.”
Gohmert also on Thursday cited a “statement that the Israeli government made last year that anti-Soros statements are not anti-Semitic.”
But while the Israeli Foreign Ministry statement was sharply critical of Soros, it did not declare that all criticism of Soros was not anti-Semitic.
Gaspard, the president of Soros’s Open Society Foundations, said in his letter to Gohmert on Thursday that “this conduct is beneath your office.”
“Just to reiterate the facts: George Soros escaped the Nazis as a 14-year-old boy, and he has spent most of his life supporting efforts to ensure that such terrifying authoritarianism never takes root again,” Gaspard said. “He did not collaborate with the Nazis. He did not help round up people. He did not confiscate anybody’s property.”
He added that it was “the height of irresponsibility” for Gohmert to make such remarks just weeks after the mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue and the pipe bomb targeting Soros.
“You are not entitled to misrepresent his and his family’s courage during such a terrifying and difficult period in our history,” Gaspard said.
Soros has been the subject of a range of unfounded conspiracy theories over the years, including one that he recently funded a caravan of Central American migrants making its way through Mexico toward the U.S. southern border. Trump suggested last month that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Soros was funding the group.
Some of those conspiracy theories have made their way into U.S. government-funded broadcasts. The head of a U.S. government agency apologized last month for the airing of a program that called Soros a “nonpracticing Jew of flexible morals,” claimed that he was involved in “clandestine operations that led to the dismantling of the Soviet Union” and described him as “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008.” The Spanish-language report was produced by Radio and Television Martí, which is aimed at audiences in Cuba.
Gohmert has previously taken aim at Soros, telling host Fox Business host Lou Dobbs in October that it was “not anti-Semitic” to criticize the liberal megadonor.
Michael Kranish and JM Rieger contributed to this report.