At 9:03 a.m. Friday morning, seemingly out of nowhere, President Donald Trump tweeted, “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!”
For good measure he added: “#Troublemakers.”
The conspiracy theory that billionaire Democratic donor George Soros was paying people to protest Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation is undoubtedly baseless, but in this case it does seem to have the same origin as most of the president’s outlandish outbursts: the Fox News universe.
A little more than an hour earlier, Fox Business Network host and top Trump booster Maria Bartiromo was interviewing Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley about today’s cloture vote when she posed an odd question to the Republican senator.
After listing off some the ways protesters have targeted GOP members over the past week or so over their expected support of Kavanaugh, Bartiromo asked, “Do you believe George Soros is behind all of this, paying these people to get you and your colleagues in elevators or wherever they can get in your face?”
Essentially, she was calling the two sexual assault survivors who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in an elevator last week nothing more than paid activists.
“I have heard so many people believe that,” Grassley answered. “I tend to believe it. I believe it fits in his attack mode and how he uses his billions and billions of resources. I think it promotes incivility in American society.”
Nine years ago, Sen. Grassley was chief among those responsible for spreading what PolitiFact deemed the “lie of the year” in the conspiracy theory over supposed “death panels” that conservatives claims were part of Obamacare. Grassley told a town hall meeting of constituents in Iowa in 2009 that they had “every right to fear” the so-called death panels, adding, “We should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on Grandma.”
In this case, neither Grassley nor Bartiromo could provide any corroborating evidence for their hunch.