Perhaps no figure gets more attention in conspiracy circles than George Soros, the billionaire investor and Democratic donor. For years, he has been cast as an anticonservative villain by a loose network of activists and political figures on the right. And in recent months, he has become a convenient boogeyman for misinformation artists who have falsely claimed that he funds spontaneous Black Lives Matter protests as well as antifa, the decentralized and largely online, far-left activist network that opposes President Trump.

Mr. Soros popped up again on Friday, this time with an unusual twist: a claim that Fox News, a channel that regularly airs criticism of Mr. Soros, was working to hide his influence.

The No. 1 post among public Facebook pages on Friday morning was an article about Mr. Soros published by the far-right website Breitbart. The article said Fox News had “attempted to silence” Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, on a show that aired Wednesday when Mr. Gingrich brought up Mr. Soros’s role in supporting local prosecutors in elections.

On the show, Mr. Gingrich claimed that the main cause of violence at the recent Black Lives Matter protests was the “George Soros-elected, left-wing, anti-police, pro-criminal district attorneys who refuse to keep people locked up.”

Melissa Francis, a Fox News anchor, then said, “I’m not sure we need to bring George Soros into this.”

The Breitbart article, which was published on Thursday, quickly went viral across the far-right online community. It generated nearly 300,000 likes, comments and shares on Facebook, reaching nearly 10 million people.

“This is the power of #GeorgeSoros,” Glenn Beck, the conservative radio host and conspiracy theorist, said in a tweet on Wednesday with nearly 6,000 likes, comments and retweets. “This is how the media and Now Fox News bows down at his feet.”

Laura Silber, a spokeswoman for the Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic group founded by Mr. Soros, said in an email that “Speaker Gingrich seemed to have his say.”

“His fellow panelist merely pointed out that the speaker was seeking to distract viewers from the real issues at hand,” Ms. Silber said. “We welcome a robust debate about the criminal justice system, the root causes of crime.”

On Thursday, a Fox News host addressed the previous day’s interruption. “Our guest, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is beloved and needed to be allowed to speak with the openness and respect that the show was all about, was interrupted,” the anchor, Harris Faulkner, said.

Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation, said right-wing media, influencers and even elected officials frequently invoked Mr. Soros’s name.

“Conspiracies about George Soros at this point are boilerplate for any right-wing conspiracy,” she said.

source: nytimes.com

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