A tough-talking anti-human-trafficking organization with ties to former President Donald Trump relied on a tip from a psychic for at least one of its failed “raids” in Haiti, according to reporters who have tracked the group.
“They have defended the use of psychics and made it sound like something that law enforcement does all the time, which they might do, but that doesn’t make it a good idea,” Vice senior staff writer Anna Merlan said on the latest episode of The Daily Beast’s Fever Dreams podcast.
The anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad and its founder, Tim Ballard, have become stars on the right with their claims of using former soldiers to raid brothels and rescue children around the world. Ballard landed a position on a Trump administration panel aimed at fighting human trafficking, and his group has been backed by sports celebrities like baseball player Bryce Harper and Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin, as well as motivational speaker Tony Robbins and talk-radio host Glenn Beck.
“One of the reasons they’ve been effective and successful is the way they’ve brought in people from sports and other kinds of celebrities to aid in their cause,” Vice features editor Tim Marchman, who has tracked the group along with Merlan, said.
But Merlan and Marchman’s reporting has poked a number of holes in the story Ballard tells about his group. Ballard has also flirted with conspiracy theorists, appearing at a conference popular with QAnon followers and shouting out an insane conspiracy theory positing that children were sex-trafficked on the furniture website Wayfair. Former Passion of the Christ star Jim Caviezel, who is set to play Ballard in a movie, has cited a separate conspiracy theory about children being tortured for their “adrenochrome” as his inspiration.
“Jim Caviezel immediately started talking about the adrenochroming of children and stated outright that children were being tortured and murdered for their adrenochrome by elites or other evildoers,” Merlan said. “[He] also sort of indicated that Ballard had been on the one who told him about these things.”
Also on the agenda for this week’s episode, The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Will Sommer talk about a growing feud between pro-Trump cable channels One America News and Newsmax, as well the latest updates on Arizona’s shambolic ballot recount and right-wing UFO enthusiasts convinced that new revelations about possible alien visitors are just another ruse from the “deep state.”