Dear Commons Community,
In his statement condemning the Manhattan grand jury indictment of Donald Trump, Florida Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis mentioned neither the former president nor the district attorney who will prosecute the case, Alvin Bragg, by name. But he did name-check George Soros, a favorite target of antisemitic conspiracy theories — twice.
For some, the implication was obvious. As reported by Yahoo News and other news media.
“It’s hard to even call it a dog whistle of antisemitism,” former assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Weissmansaid of the Florida governor’s statement in a cable news appearance.
Soros indirectly helped fund Bragg’s run for office, but he is not involved in the case against the former president, which is focused on an allegedly improper 2016 payment to the former adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.
Soros and Bragg have never met.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and other Republicans similarly invoked Soros in denouncing the decision to indict Trump.
Last week, Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio, a Republican who has been accused of trafficking in xenophobia and white supremacy, charged that Soros and Bragg “are trying to turn America into a third-world country.”
On Thursday night, a single hour of Fox News primetime programming featured 10 mentions of Soros, including two descriptions of Bragg as a Soros “puppet.”
A Hungarian American billionaire who funds progressive causes, Soros is frequently invoked as shorthand for a nexus of wealth, progressive politics and cultural clout.
“Soros offers a combination that is useful to his detractors: born abroad, Jewish, in finance, high profile,” Emily Tamkin, the author of a book about Soros, told Yahoo News. She added that because Soros is “genuinely influential in politics, finance and philanthropy,” conspiracy theories about him are easily concocted.
When Bragg was running to become the Manhattan district attorney in 2021, Color of Change, a group backed by Soros, spent roughly $500,000 on efforts on Bragg’s behalf, such as on mailers and voter turnout.
Trump, who is running for president again, is avidly using the indictment to solicit campaign contributions, depicting himself as the target of the “Soros Money Machine.” He has long faced accusations of antisemitism, although his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are observant Jews.
Trump has routinely trafficked in antisemitic tropes about dual loyalty, wealth and parsimony.
Last year, in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, he attacked American Jews — who mostly vote Democratic — for not rewarding his staunch support of Israel’s right-wing government. “Our wonderful Evangelicals are far more appreciative of [Trump’s record on Israel] than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S,” he complained.
Trump warned that “U.S. Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel — Before it is too late!”
Thursday’s indictment allowed Trump and his loyal supporters the opportunity of reviving a grievance-laden narrative that invariably turns the former president into a victim of nefarious forces.
“This was their mission,” Eric Trump, the president’s son, said on Fox News of Bragg and his prosecutors. “This is what they promised Soros. It’s why they received the big checks.”
Soros survived the Holocaust as a child. As an adult, he moved to New York, where he started a successful hedge fund. His philanthropy through the Open Society Foundations supports civic institutions in emerging democracies. In the U.S., Open Society funds education, public health and independent media not-for-profit organizations.
According to experts in antisemitism, invoking the 92-year-old philanthropist serves to promote toxic ideas about Jews. “A person who promotes a Soros conspiracy theory may not intend to promulgate antisemitism,” according to the ADL, formerly known as the Anti-Defamation League. “But Soros’ Jewish identity is so well-known that in many cases it is hard not to infer that meaning.”
Trump allies including Tucker Carlson, the popular Fox News anchor, have promoted the “great replacement” theory, which holds that Democrats — purportedly funded by Soros and other members of elites — are trying to bring immigrants of color into the United States in order to create an electorally insurmountable nonwhite political bloc.
Fears of racial obsolescence powered the white supremacists who rampaged through Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, shouting that “Jews will not replace us” and, in the following year, were also cited by Robert Bowers, who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
During the racial justice protests of 2020, some conservatives falsely accused Soros of encouraging violence.
The most recent attacks on Soros come as the nation faces an unprecedented increase in antisemitic incidents, which became more frequent at around the time Trump first announced he was running for the presidency in mid-2015.
“When in doubt, blame the Jews,” the intelligence analyst and scholar Aki J. Peritz wrote on Twitter in response to DeSantis.
Progressive activists have called the claim that Soros controls Bragg not only antisemitic but also racist. Last week, after Trump called Bragg a “Soros-backed animal,” a group of Black and Jewish lawmakers from New York condemned Trump’s “incendiary racist and anti-Semitic” rhetoric.
Trump and his antisemitic GOP goonies have no sense of shame when it comes to denigrating others.