Provocative publicity machine Matt Gaetz has thrown up the nonsense theory that billionaire George Soros might be funding the caravan of migrants heading from Honduras to America. In response — just before someone put a pipe bomb in Soros' mailbox, the president of Soros' foundations, responded to Gaetz. Here is the response:
By Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz seems confused. Lately, he's been making a lot of false and misleading claims about George Soros and the Open Society Foundations, his philanthropic organization, which I lead. I thought it might be helpful for the people in his district to have a little more information to help them separate fact from fiction.
Last week, Rep. Gaetz tweeted out a video that he claimed depicted a man paying cash to people in Honduras to join a "caravan" of migrants headed for the U.S. He further suggested that the people were being paid by Mr. Soros to do so, and that the people in the video were coming to "storm" America at election time. President Trump amplified Gaetz's claims in a tweet of his own a day later.
Rep. Gaetz's tweet was wrong in nearly every respect. A caravan of people had formed in Central America and was making its way north, as reported by many news outlets. But the group of people in the video Reo, Gaetz shared were in Guatemala, not Honduras, as he had claimed. While the Open Society Foundations does support the historic U.S. commitment, honored by presidents of both parties until 2016, to welcome people fleeing oppression and violence, neither the foundations nor Mr. Soros was involved in supporting the Hondurans' efforts.
News organizations were quick to debunk the congressman's bogus claims. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and Snopes were among the outlets that quickly published fact checks demonstrating the errors of his ways.
Rep. Gaetz eventually acknowledged his mistake, sort of, tweeting that he had received the video in question from a person in Honduras, and so had assumed that's where the footage originated. But rather than admitting he was wrong, he pivoted to another equally misleading attack on Mr. Soros—this one referencing our work in Albania.
Residents of Florida's Panhandle can be forgiven for not following their congressman's train of thought here. He is referencing a legal action brought by a right-wing organization called Judicial Watch, seeking information about Open Society's role in some routine interactions between the U.S. government and a range of independent, non-profit organizations in the Balkans region in recent years. Judicial Watch and Gaetz seek to paint these entirely appropriate, ordinary events as a secretive conspiracy.
In truth, Open Society has worked with the U.S. government on issues of common concern—like fighting corruption and promoting the rule of law– in former Communist countries. We have carried out this work under the Bush and Obama administrations alike. We support freedoms Americans cherish and exercise on a daily basis in the Balkans: the rights to free speech, a free press, and the freedom to protest. Open Society has also worked to combat discrimination against the persecuted Roma minority there as well.
We are proud our work helping nations in the Balkans make the leap from Communism to democracy, and combat discrimination. We're surprised that Gaetz does not share these quintessentially American values, if that's the case. We would encourage Rep. Gaetz to get his facts straight and try not to fuel the climate of fear and hatred that is emboldening extremists and stoking threats of violence.