George Soros has long claimed not to be a funder of the liberal media group Media Matters for America (MMFA). That will all change today when the billionaire philanthropist donates a reported $1 million to the organization, which will use the money to hold "Fox host Glenn Beck and others on the cable news channel accountable for their reporting," the New York Times reports.
According to a statement obtained by the Times "The Caucus" blog, MMFA is set to announce the donation later today. That statement reads in part:
Fox has transformed itself into a 24-7 G.O.P. attack machine, dividing Americans through fear-mongering and falsehoods and undermining the legitimacy of our government for partisan political ends. ... We are especially pleased that in this moment of hidden right-wing billionaire money corrupting our democracy, Mr. Soros, upon deciding to support our efforts, quickly and transparently has made that support public.
In an accompanying statement obtained by the Times, Soros continues his stance that he has “not to date been a funder” of the organization, but says the donation is now necessary in order to fight Fox News and the "incendiary rhetoric" of its hosts.
Soros made a similar claim in the past regarding the liberal Jewish organization J Street. However The Washington Times recently uncovered documents revealing Soros and his family had been funding the group.
Accusations that Soros has been secretly funding Media Matters have been circulating for quite some time. As the NYT points out, in May Beck called MMFA a “left-wing George Soros-funded media machine that is now referring to me as a jihadist.” In 2007, fellow Fox host Sean Hannity called the group “Hillary Clinton’s George Soros-funded group Media Matters.”
That argument is usually based on the idea that Soros finds ways around being directly connected to funding Media Matters. Instead, critics say, he funnels his money through other organizations that turn around and donate to the group.
In 2004, National Review's Donald Luskin explained that Soros funded MMFA through donations to the Center for American Progress. In 2007, Bill O'Reilly explained the connections on his TV show:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/TpZZGTGVePE?fs=1&hl=en_US expand=1]
On its website, Media Matters denies O'Reilly's claims: "Soros has never given money to Media Matters, either directly or through another organization."
Politico, however, reports today that "Media Matters has received funding from or formed partnerships with several groups that Soros funds or has funded. These include the Tides Foundation, Democracy Alliance, Moveon.org and the Center for American Progress." It later corrected its post to absolve Moveon.org because it "has not received a donation from Soros since 2004.”
Media Matters vice president for research and communications Ari Rabin-Havt tells Politico that the organization has unsuccessfully solicited Soros's funding wing, the Open Society Institute, for the past six years. “We’ve asked for money,” he said. “We just haven’t gotten it.”
Now that's officially changed. Soros believes Fox and its hosts have become too dangerous and are a grave threat to "civil and informed discourse." He explains in a more complete version of his statement, available via Politico:
"Despite repeated assertions to the contrary by various Fox News commentators, I have not to date been a funder of Media Matters,” Soros said. “However, in view of recent evidence suggesting that the incendiary rhetoric of Fox News hosts may incite violence, I have now decided to support the organization. Media Matters is one of the few groups that attempts to hold Fox News accountable for the false and misleading information they so often broadcast. I am supporting Media Matters in an effort to more widely publicize the challenge Fox News poses to civil and informed discourse in our democracy."
Perhaps by coincidence, or in connection with the donation, Politico reports that Media Matters launched a new section of its website today specifically attacking Glenn Beck. Reflecting a recent letter by Tides Foundation CEO Drummond Pike calling on advertisers to drop Beck, the new section gives readers the chance to "sign" a petition:
The front page of Media Matters's website advertises the petition this way:
MMFA has long billed itself as a "progressive research and information" non-profit dedicated to "correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." But in 2007 Human Events described them as "a cog in the growing machine of 'progressive' activist and advocacy non-profits."
The organization is led by David Brock, a former conservative who had his liberal coming out party in the memoir Blinded by the Right. That book was described by Christopher Hitchens as "an exercise in self-love, disguised as an exercise in self-abnegation.” Regarding Brock, Hitchens added: “I would say without any hesitation that he [Brock] is incapable of recognizing the truth, let alone of telling it."
On his radio show this morning, Beck issued a challenge to Soros while also promising to expose the financier and poking fun at his network of organizations:
"Why talk between all of these organizations, why don't we just talk one-on-one, George?" Beck asked. "Call me. Let's chat."
Note: This is a breaking news story. It has been updated since first publication and more updates may occur.