Trump became the first president ever to be criminally charged Thursday, when a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict him for his role in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. Republicans rushed to his defense, with many trotting out an antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jewish people control the world.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is reportedly gearing up for a presidential run, accused the “Soros-backed Manhattan district attorney” of “stretching the law to target a political opponent.”
Senator Rick Scott similarly alleged that “Democrats and the corrupt Soros-funded NY attorney” were politically motivated in indicting Trump.
Representative Matt Gaetz said the indictment was the result of the “Sorosification of the criminal justice system.”
Republicans blaming Soros is nothing new. The Jewish billionaire has long been a bogeyman for the right, and has been blamed for everything from antifa to Covid-19 and creating a “shadow government” in the United States. The conspiracy theories have a real-world impact. Cesar Sayoc, the Trump supporter who mailed pipe bombs to Soros and Trump’s political enemies in 2018, railed against Soros regularly on Twitter. Sayoc even claimed Soros had paid off a victim of the Parkland school shooting.
For what it’s worth, Soros told Semafor’s Steve Clemons that he has never met Bragg and did not donate to his campaign. “I think some on the right would rather focus on far-fetched conspiracy theories than on the serious charges against the former president,” Soros said.
But the point is not whether Soros backs Bragg. The point of blaming Soros is that it’s a reliable Republican dog whistle. It’s a good tool for whipping Trump supporters up into a frenzy, by telling them that the global elite are out to get them.
As reporter Emily Tamkin pointed out, “It’s genuinely important to see this not as something new, but a continuation, a playing of the hits, a doubling down on the same old.”
“You can be against billionaire money in policy, politics, but that is different from collapsing the distinction between financing a campaign or initiative—as Soros has done for more progressive drug policy for over 25 years—and claiming or implying that all agency in a criminal case can be put at the feet of one (yes, Jewish) billionaire,” she said.