In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting and the bomb sent to liberal donor George Soros, honest conversations about anti-Semitism in the United States are finally dominating the news. So, of course, they're also finding their way onto late-night talk shows. On Wednesday evening, Samantha Bee did an anti-Semitism segment on her show that took a deep dive into history.
She focused the episode on Soros, who is seen by many on the far-right as a puppet master who bankrolls any activities that are associated with liberals. Most recently, he's been accused of funding the migrant caravan of Central Americans who are currently walking through Mexico and seeking asylum.
While it's true that Soros is extraordinarily wealthy and that his donations have greatly benefited many liberal causes, the idea that he's the hidden overseer of all Democratic projects is unreal — and as Bee explained on Wednesday, it's also rooted in bigotry.
Bee asserted that conservative pundit Glenn Beck introduced this notion about Soros into mainstream discourse in 2010 when he did a segment on the donor that literally involved physical puppets. But: "The idea of Jews as wealthy, scheming world dominators goes way back, farther than 2010," Bee explained. "It's as old as Mike Pence thinks the Earth is."
"Everything people say about Soros was said before about Nathan Mayer Rothschild," Bee told viewers, referring to a Jewish banker from Germany who lived around the turn of the 18th century. She noted that Rothschild was accused of making money off the Battle of Waterloo from betting on Napoleon's loss after he learned about it.
It was "an utterly false smear," as Bee puts it — she joked that "the only people to have made bazillions off the Battle of Waterloo are Abba" — but it helped perpetuate harmful Jewish stereotypes. "So it went through the years," Bee explained. "The czars of Russia, the Nazis, Richard Nixon: All of them found Soros-like Jewish figures to blame to consolidate their power and justify their behavior."
Not every critique of Soros is rooted in anti-Semitism. But many are, and there are often clear indicators. Bee noted in her segment that phrases like "coastal elites," "Hollywood liberals," and "globalists" are often used as coded anti-Semitic terms. They act as a big red flag when they're employed to describe Soros, or anyone else who's Jewish.
Many analysts have concluded that anti-Semitism — or at least the open expression of it — is on the rise in the United States. A recent study from the Anti-Defamation League found that incidents of anti-Semitic violence surged 67 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year.
Bee laid much of the blame for this trend at the feet of the GOP, which, she said, "tolerates anti-Semitism and benefits from it." Although there are significant instances of anti-Semitism on the left, too, she said, "right now it is shockingly mainstream in the Republican Party. Major elected officials drop dark Soros references constantly."
President Donald Trump is among them. On Wednesday, he told reporters that he "wouldn't be surprised" if Soros was indeed funding the migrant caravan. One of Trump's most notorious examples, however, is a campaign ad he released near the conclusion of the 2016 election. Most of the video consists of images of him, Hillary Clinton, and former Democratic presidents, but there are also a few clips of Soros, Janet Yellen, and Lloyd Blankfein — public figures who are all Jewish. Trump's voiceover derides them as "global special interests." Soros called the ad "a coded anti-Semitic message."
Moments before a gunman murdered 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, the attacker reportedly shouted that he wanted all Jews to die. Anti-Semitism, blatant or coded, can have fatal consequences.