In a collision of conspiracy theories, two Republican lawmakers wrongly accused the son of billionaire Democratic donor George Soros of being the Ukraine whistleblower.
“Adam Schiff said, ‘I do not know the identity of the whistleblower,’” Rep. Steve King (R-CA) tweeted on Thursday morning, referring to remarks House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) made in the first public impeachment hearing Wednesday.
“@RepAdamSchiff here are four strong clues.”
King, trying to suggest the whistleblower is tight with top Democrats, attached four pictures of a bearded man standing with Democratic figures like Hillary Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The wording of King’s tweet implied that the unnamed man in the pictures is the whistleblower. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) then amplified King’s claim by quote-tweeting King’s photo collage.
The man in the pictures is Alexander Soros, whose father is often featured in anti-Semitic right-wing conspiracy theories.
The younger Soros doesn’t fit the description of the anonymous whistleblower in any way. But right-wing internet commenters have been pushing the photos of him with the Democrats since at least week, earning a “false” rating from Politifact.
King later deleted the tweet.
This isn’t even the first time Trump supporters have misidentified a person in a picture to attack the anonymous whistleblower.
Last week, former “Superman” actor Dean Cain and other Trump fans used a picture of an Obama White House staffer to claim that the whistleblower. The ex-staffer, who could not be the whistleblower since he left the White House years ago, soon faced death threats from irate Trump supporters.
King and Gosar didn’t respond to requests for comment. In a statement to The Daily Beast, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations slammed King for both posting the false tweet and his “long established history of white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”
“Rep. King is circulating false information,” the statement reads. “The person in the picture is Alex Soros, deputy chairman of the Open Society Foundations. He is not the whistleblower, and any attempt to identify the whistleblower is a violation of protections put in place to help people in government root out waste, fraud and abuse.
“Rep. King should know better, but as a member of Congress with a long established history of white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia — whose behavior is so abhorrent House Republican leaders stripped him of his committee assignments — our expectations of his suddenly showing any principles are low.”
King has slammed Soros in the past. In 2017, he endorsed a tweet that referred to “Satan’s Soros plan.” And even after a Trump supporter sent Soros a pipe bomb, King refused to tone down his rhetoric, while denying his attacks were anti-Semitic. “I don’t think about George Soros as a Jew,” he said last year. “I think about him as an operator, a leftist operator that’s been engaged in upsetting freedom and [being] more or less an enemy of conservatism.”
Trump allies have frequently tried, without any evidence, to blame the Soros family for Trump’s impeachment troubles. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has frequently cited shaky claims that George Soros orchestrated some anti-Trump scheme in Ukraine. On Wednesday night, Trump ally Joe DiGenova claimed on Fox News that Soros controls a “very large part” of the State Department.
Aryeh Tuchman, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told The Daily Beast last year that conspiracy theories about Soros are corrosive.
“Because Soros’s Jewish identity is so well known, we are concerned that conspiracy theories about George Soros may have the effect of reinforcing this trope and spreading it throughout the broader population,” he said.