How George Soros became a target for Trump and Fox News with Alvin Bragg’s investigation
The Manhattan prosecutor leading a criminal investigation into long-running allegations of fraud and malfeasance involving Donald Trump has made history as the first to prosecute a former president.
The office of New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is legally barred from discussing the actions of the grand jury that voted to indict Mr Trump, has largely refrained from public comment.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump and his allies have bombarded Mr Bragg’s office with claims of election interference or invoked baseless conspiracy theories, including antisemitic and racist attacks, that accuse Mr Bragg of leading a politically motivated case against the 2024 candidate for president.
At the centre of those attacks is a claim that Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros is either directly funding Mr Bragg or directing his investigation at the expense of the lives of Black New Yorkers. Both claims are false; Mr Soros himself does not even know Mr Bragg, and his philanthropic arm did not directly donate to him or 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,” Mr Soros told Semafor.
A spokesperson for Mr Soros also said the two men have never communicated in any way.
Mr Soros, who survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary, has supported a number of progressive and liberal political causes through his donations to the Open Society Foundations.
Manhattan’s first-ever Black district attorney was overwhelmingly elected to the role in 2021. His successful campaign was supported by the political action committee affiliated with Color of Change, a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes criminal justice reform and other racial justice causes.
Between 2016 and 2022, Mr Soros and a political action committee together contributed roughly $4m to Color of Change’s PAC, according to a spokesperson. Mr Soros contributed $1m in 2021. None of those funds were earmarked for Mr Bragg or his campaign.
Color of Change pledged to spend $1m on direct mailers, on-the-ground campaigning and voter turnout efforts on Mr Bragg’s behalf – not funneling money into his campaign directly – but ended up spending roughly $500,000, or about 11 per cent of its $4.6m in spending in the 2021-2022 election cycle, according to Open Secrets.
The Open Society Policy Center also supported Color of Change’s nonprofit arm with $7m in contributions in 2021, part of a five-year $220m investment in racial justice efforts that support Black-led organisations, according to a statement from the Open Society. That grant stipulates that “no OSPC funding can be used for partisan or political activities.”
Mr Soros’s son Jonathan Soros and his wife Jennifer Allan Soros each contributed $10,000 to Mr Bragg’s campaign during the Democratic primary election for district attorney in 2021.
In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, George Soros explained his support for “reform-minded prosecutors,” arguing for greater investments in mental health professionals to address “crisis situations” and youth programmes and education opportunities for incarcerated people.
“This is why I have supported the election (and more recently the re-election) of prosecutors who support reform,” he said in the op-ed. “I have done it transparently, and I have no intention of stopping. The funds I provide enable sensible reform-minded candidates to receive a hearing from the public.”
Still, for years the name “Soros” has been a dog whistle or shorthand for a sprawling, centuries-old antisemitic conspiracy theory alleging a global Jewish plot to manipulate political and financial systems. The Anti-Defamation League notes that “even if no antisemitic insinuation is intended,” the implication that a Jewish individual is a “puppet master” can have “the effect of mainstreaming antisemitic tropes.”
Those conspiracy theories often intersect with other violent and bigoted ideologies, including the QAnon movement, while the former president’s rhetoric has accelerated into visions of violence and chaos. Mr Trump’s loyalists continue to believe he is at the centre of a tangled web of Democratic corruption, parallel to an antisemitic strain of online-driven conspiracy theory-mongering among QAnon influencers, Christian nationalists and civil war accelerationists.
Across far-right social media spaces like Truth Social, Telegram and Gab, users routinely link Mr Soros to other conspiracy theory plots, like funding “antifa” and racial justice protests in 2020.
Those claims have repeatedly surfaced on mainstream cable news.
On 19 March, Fox News programme Fox & Friends said that the Black prosecutor “has to pay his master back” by prosecuting Mr Trump. The following day, host Rachel Campos-Duffy suggested Mr Bragg is “listening to his master, George Soros.”
Mr Soros was mentioned at least 21 times on the network within the hours after news of Mr Trump’s indictment on 30 March, according to an analysis from left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters. His name was mentioned in every primetime programme that night, including 10 times alone on the hourlong Jesse Watters Primetime. Fox News headlines claim the Soros family “helped push” Mr Bragg “into power”.
Other Republican figures and right-wing voices have also derisively called Mr Bragg a “Soros-backed” or “Soros-funded” prosecutor without explaining what they mean, exactly, when they say that.
The former president has baselessly asserted that Mr Soros and “hand-picked and funded” Mr Bragg. Ohio Republican Senator JD Vance claimed he “brought” Mr Bragg. “Alvin Bragg is bought and paid for by George Soros,” said US Rep Anna Paulina Luna.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote “Soros-backed” twice in a statement opposing the criminal indictment against his potential 2024 presidential rival.
“This has been happening for 20 years and, in the US, has especially been the party line in the past five years,” according to Emily Tamkin, who wrote 2020’s The Influence of Soros: Politics, Power, and the Struggle for Open Society.
“I think 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,” she said following news of Mr Trump’s indictment and the revival of anti-Soros tropes across social media.
“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 added.