Would-Be Misinformation Czar Jankowicz Accuses Free Beacon of Peddling Anti-Semitic Tropes

Nina Jankowicz's American Sunshine Project condemns 'bad actors' for labeling protesters 'pro-Hamas'

Nina Jankowicz (DHS/Wikimedia Commons)
June 6, 2024

The Washington Free Beacon echoed "deeply antisemitic tropes" when it reported on liberal megadonor George Soros's ties to a left-wing group that raised funds to bail out anti-Israel protesters, according to a report from a nonprofit led by Nina Jankowicz, the Biden administration's would-be disinformation czar.

The American Sunlight Project, Jankowicz's newly formed nonprofit, released that report, "From Anonymous Internet Forums to Members of Congress: How False Online Claims About Campus Protesters Became the Centerpiece of a Political Fundraising Campaign," on Thursday afternoon.

The eight-page document argues, without evidence, that news reports linking Soros's political spending to anti-Israel protests, including the Free Beacon's, originated in online chat rooms linked to foreign actors and that they aim to seed anti-Semitic narratives.

The report does not, however, mention several mainstream media reports—including from Politico's Shia Kapos and the Wall Street Journal's Ira Stoll—linking Soros and other Democratic megadonors to anti-Israel protests.

"Two of the organizers supporting the protests at Columbia University and on other campuses are Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow," reads the May 5 Politico piece, headlined "Pro-Palestinian protesters are backed by a surprising source: Biden's biggest donors."

"Both are supported by the Tides Foundation, which is seeded by Democratic megadonor George Soros and was previously supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation," the piece continues. "It in turn supports numerous small nonprofits that work for social change."

"You were the first to publish, followed by the WSJ, and then the New York Post," Sunlight Project spokesman Carlos Alvarez-Aranyos told the Free Beacon. "That's why you're mentioned. You brought it from the anonymous web ecosystem to the mainstream." (The report does not mention the Journal.)

The Sunlight Project report cites the Free Beacon's April 15 piece about the Tides Center, a left-wing network that counts Soros as a major donor—not the Tides Foundation, as the report states.

When scores of "Free Palestine" protesters across the United States blocked major airports, highways, and bridges at the time, the Tides Center sponsored a "bail and legal defense fund" to provide legal support for those arrested in the demonstrations. Donors to that fund contributed to "a left-wing dark money behemoth funded by George Soros," the Free Beacon reported.

According to Jankowicz's Sunlight Project, the Free Beacon's piece brought to the mainstream "allegations linking philanthropists like Soros to funding protests," which "echo deeply antisemitic tropes."

The Free Beacon is of course well known for its hostility to the Jewish people and the state of Israel.

Jankowicz's report goes on to suggest the Free Beacon falsely alleged that Soros "was funding the Tides Foundation's 'bail and legal defense fund.'" The Free Beacon's piece does not make such an allegation—it notes that Soros is a major donor to the Tides Center, the group behind the bail fund.

The Thursday report illustrates how Jankowicz is spending her time following the collapse of the Biden administration's ill-fated Disinformation Governance Board, which Jankowicz led as executive director for a short time.

The Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of the board in April 2022; just three weeks later, the department shut the board down following intense criticism, including over Jankowicz's own peddling of misinformation. In October 2020, she condemned reporting on Hunter Biden's laptop as a "Russian influence op." The Department of Justice has since confirmed the laptop's legitimacy.

In addition to the Free Beacon, Jankowicz's report attacks "right-leaning and far-right media outlets"—including the New York Post and Fox News—for reporting on ties between anti-Israel protesters and Soros, as well as other "progressive philanthropists" such as Bill Gates and the Rockefeller family. Gates and the Rockefellers are mentioned in the Politico piece omitted from the report.

Alvarez-Aranyos said the Free Beacon was included in the group's report because the Free Beacon brought claims regarding Soros "from the anonymous web ecosystem to the mainstream." Politico was not included in the report, Alvarez-Aranyos said, because it "wasn't one of the first three" outlets to report on such claims.

In addition to the Free Beacon's alleged peddling of anti-Semitic tropes, Jankowicz's report laments that "bad actors" have dubbed anti-Israel protests "pro-Hamas." The Free Beacon subsequently presented Alvarez-Aranyos with examples of protesters lauding Hamas—including those who have waved Hamas flags, worn Hamas headbands, praised Hamas terrorists, and called on those terrorists to target Jewish students—and asked if one has to be a bad actor to point out those occurrences.

Alvarez-Aranyos said the group's assessment is that "labeling the protesters 'pro-Hamas' was a strategic decision to maximize the inflammatory nature of the claims."

"I'm sure you agree that anyone seeking to weaponize antisemitic messaging to gather attention and sow division is worthy of the 'bad actor’ label," he said.

Pressed on whether the Free Beacon is worthy of such a label, Alvarez-Aranyos said he has "no opinion of your newspaper whatsoever."

"I do know that you were the first to publish a story reflecting a message we tracked from its inception (which simply didn't exist prior to April 12, and which was extremely specific, making it easy to isolate and track)," he said. "After the anonymous web, you were the next link in the chain, and the first in mainstream media. We know that for a fact."

The Sunlight Project does not disclose its donors and has no plans to do so, Alvarez-Aranyos said, and he declined to say whether the group is funded by Soros, his son, or any of their affiliates.

"As a matter of policy, just like so many of the thousands of C4s in this country, we don't disclose funder information, and we don't plan to," he told the Free Beacon. "That's primarily to protect people. Generally, we get attacked very unfairly by a lot of outlets, unfortunately, and obviously Nina has been victim of a lot of attacks—harassment, death threats, and things of that nature. So our goal is to protect people, and we're not required to, so we're not doing that."

Updated 9:30 a.m.: This piece has been updated for clarity.