The federal government’s state-funded broadcasting arm is placing a number of employees on administrative leave and opening an investigation into how it ended up airing a report this year attacking liberal financier George Soros as a malignant “multimillionaire Jew.”
The story aired in May on Radio Televisión Martí, a Spanish-language broadcaster housed in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami. OCB is a division of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency that oversees government-funded news organizations around the world.
The OCB segment accuses Soros, a “multimillionaire Jew of Hungarian origin,” of using “his lethal influence to destroy democracies.” Citing the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch, OCB’s story warned that Soros “has his eye on Latin America.”
The segment is of renewed relevance given a recent assassination attempt against Soros, who was one of a number of targets of a failed bombing campaign that also targeted former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other prominent Democrats.
Mother Jones reported on the segment’s existence on Friday. USAGM sources said the agency was caught completely off guard, and was not aware that their Cuba division had gone after Soros in such controversial terms. The agency does not manage the daily operations of each of its subsidiary news organizations, and is in fact statutorily prohibited from directing their news content.
USAGM is now trying to figure out how the Soros piece ended up on its airwaves, and whether OCB has broadcasted any similarly objectionable content. The agency’s senior staff gathered on Monday morning to discuss the Soros segment, and decided to retain a third party organization to audit all of OCB’s coverage in an attempt to root out any similarly objectionable content.
“I have directed an immediate, full content audit to identify any patterns of unethical reporting at the network,” said USAGM chief executive John Lansing in a statement on Monday afternoon. “I have asked [OCB director Tomas] Regalado to also require ethics and standards refresher training for all OCB journalists.”
Lansing said was “personally and professionally offended” by the Soros report, and that it “should never should have been shown.”
“Those deemed responsible for this production will be immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct,” Lansing added. “Disciplinary action appropriate under federal law may then be proposed, including the potential removal of those responsible, depending on the outcome of that investigation.”
A USAGM spokesperson told The Daily Beast that those employees had not yet been identified.
The Open Society Foundations, Soros’ umbrella of charities and advocacy groups, called the TV Marti story “flagrant and crude propaganda” in a letter sent to Lansing on Monday. “We appreciate that the program has been removed from the website, but we would like an explanation as to how U.S. taxpayer subsidized content like this could get produced,” wrote OSF President Patrick Gaspard.
The spate of undetonated mail bombs sent last week, followed by the Saturday massacre of a Pittsburgh synagogue by a gunman who accused Jews of facilitating a migrant caravan headed for the southern border of the U.S., have heightened national focus on anti-Semitic political rhetoric. Soros in particular has been the target of political barbs interpreted as vague shots at his Jewish heritage.
Such comments have recently ensnared a top official at Judicial Watch, the group on which OCB based its Soros report, which is conducting a fundraising campaign that it’s dubbed “Expose Soros.” Chris Farrell, the head of investigations for the organization, came under fire over the weekend for telling Fox Business host Lou Dobbs that the “Soros-occupied State Department” is financing the migrant caravan.