Was Glenn Beck's George Soros Takedown Anti-Semitic?

Jaws drop as the Fox News host lays out his argument

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On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week, Glenn Beck aired a three-part takedown of billionaire financier George Soros, calling him a "puppet master" responsible for sowing political and economic chaos throughout the world. Soros is a Hungarian-American businessman with a history of philanthropy and sympathy for liberal causes. He was also a teenager in Hungary when Hitler's armies occupied that country in 1944. Soros, who was raised Jewish but now calls himself an atheist, spent a brief period of time helping Nazis hand out deportation notices to Hungarian Jews, a fact that Beck made much of in this week's shows. Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League have condemned Beck's description of Soros's behavior in occupied Hungary, while others have said that Beck's entire broadside against Soros veers uncomfortably close to anti-Semitism.

[Soros] used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. And George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening. Here's a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps. And I am certainly not saying that George Soros enjoyed that, even had a choice. I mean, he's 14 years old. He was surviving. So I'm not making a judgment. That's between him and God. [...] George Soros is -- many people would call him an anti-Semite. I will not. I don't know enough about all of his positions on Jews.
  • This Crosses the Line  Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Beck's comments "horrific" and "totally off limits and over the top." He also said that "to hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant ... George Soros has been forthright about his childhood experiences and his family's history, and there the matter should rest." Elan Steinberg, vice president of the The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, called Beck's remarks "monstrous" and said that they "go to the heart of the instrumentalization and trivialization of the Holocaust."
  • Soros Hid From the Nazis, points out Justin Elliott at Salon. "Soros survived the Holocaust by posing as a Christian in his birth country of Hungary, where, as a teenager, he accompanied his godfather, an official in Hungary's Ministry of Agriculture, while he was confiscating Jewish property."
  • It's Not Just the Nazis Thing, says Michelle Goldberg at The Daily Beast. In a lengthy critique, Goldberg calls the Soros shows "a symphony of anti-Semitic dog-whistles" and a display of the "conspiratorial mind-set of classic anti-Semitism, in which Jews threaten all governments equally." Goldberg says that Beck grievously misreads Soros's history of political activism: "It's true, of course, that Soros has had a hand in bringing down governments—communist, authoritarian governments ... Beck's implication is that there was something sinister in Soros' support for anti-communist civil society organizations in the former Soviet Union. Further, he sees such support as evidence that Soros will engineer a communist coup here in the United States."
  • Is Beck Finally Losing It? wonders Paul Constant at The Stranger. "Glenn Beck is falling down the same rabbit hole that consumed 9/11 Truthers," Constant writes. "If Beck keeps banging at this crazy one-world government drum, he's going to wind up way out on the fringes."
  • Don't Forget Soros Is an Avowed Liberal  "Why is Soros important to the far right?" asks James Besser at The Jewish Week. "Could it be because he is a major contributor to Democratic causes, and because they are trying to make his money radioactive to their political adversaries?"
  • Yes! Don't Forget That!  Calvin Freiburger at NewsReal Blog steps forward to defend Beck, saying that "the case for Beck's Jew-hatred is that he said some things about a single ex-Jew that are superficially comparable to what anti-Semites say about Jews as a whole." Freiburgrer admits it's "embarrassing" that Beck quoted Mahathir Mohamed, the former prime minister of Malaysia, "who also said some genuinely anti-Semitic things," but goes on to say that the host has "been careless before; it's a Beck thing, not a bigot thing." Ultimately, says Freiburger, "the fact is, George Soros is a radical, and that he does hold tremendous influence, which he wields in support of left-wing causes. To say this isn't anti-Semitic... because it's true."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.