(JTA) — An exchange Wednesday on a Fox News show struck many as remarkable: Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, blamed “George Soros’ money” for violence in American cities before being shut down by two other panelists on “Outnumbered.”
The next day saw an apology — from the show for not letting Gingrich finish.
Depicting Soros — the Jewish American Holocaust survivor, financier and liberal megadonor — as President Donald Trump’s chief opponent and the source of America’s ills has become increasingly common among Republicans. He has been lambasted on Fox several times.
Fox News guests and hosts have, like Gingrich, blamed Soros for the unrest and violence accompanying protests this summer. Others have called him a “puppet master,” falsely blamed him for the migrant caravans in 2018 and talked of the “Soros-occupied State Department.” In one instance, a sitting congressman repeated the false claim that Soros helped perpetrate the Holocaust. (Fox apologized for the last two.)
Anti-Semitism watchdogs have cautioned against rhetoric demonizing Soros, saying it perpetuates anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about rich Jews secretly controlling the world with their money, spreading disease or trying to “replace” America’s white population with immigrants of color.
In 2018, based on the false allegation that Soros was behind the migrant caravan, a man sent a pipe bomb to Soros’ house. Days later, a gunman killed 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue. He, too, had demonized Soros on social media.
But last week on Twitter, Gingrich begged to differ with the notion that criticizing Soros is anti-Semitic.
“Why are some in the left so afraid of our mentioning George Soros’ name that they scream anti-semitic?” Gingrich tweeted on Sept. 9. “It IS his name. He IS funding pro-criminal, anti police district attorneys. Why is the left afraid of the facts?”
Soros has funded progressive candidates for district attorney across the country. One week after his tweet, on Sept. 16, Gingrich took his criticism a step further on “Outnumbered,” citing those campaign donations in order to blame Soros for violence in American cities.
“The No. 1 problem in almost all these cities is George Soros-elected, left-wing anti-police, pro-criminal district attorneys who refuse to keep people locked up,” Gingrich said. “Progressive district attorneys are anti-police, pro-criminal and overwhelmingly elected with George Soros’ money, and they’re a major cause of the violence we’re seeing because they keep putting the violent criminals back on the street.”
Fellow panelists Marie Harf and Melissa Francis objected to Gingrich bringing up Soros.
“George Soros doesn’t need to be a part of this conversation,” Harf said.
“So it’s verboten?” Gingrich replied.
After a few seconds of silence, the host, Harris Faulkner, said, “OK, we’re going to move on.”
Right-wing activists on Twitter were not happy with how the conversation went down.
“Why on Earth is Fox News protecting George Soros?” wrote David Harris Jr., a fellow at the Falkirk Center, the think tank at the evangelical Liberty University founded by, and named after, Charlie Kirk and the university’s ousted former president, Jerry Falwell, Jr.
“FOX News Panel Melts Down After Newt Gingrich Correctly Calls Out Lawless Soros-Funded District Attorneys,” wrote Jim Hoft, founder of the Gateway Pundit, a far-right news site.
“Fox has not disclosed why it muzzled Newt Gingrich, a former House Speaker, from discussing George Soros’ record of meddling in elections all over the country,” wrote Sean Davis, co-founder of the Federalist, a right-wing publication.
On Thursday, Faulkner apologized and called Gingrich “beloved.”
“We had a little incident on the show yesterday that was not smooth,” the show’s host said. “While I was leading the segment, we had interruptions, and I sat silently while all of that played out. Also not ideal. 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 is all about, was interrupted. Do we debate with fire here? Yes. But we must also give each other the space to express ourselves.”
She added, “We don’t censor on this show. And that’s why we’re winning weekdays at noon.”