Trump-backed candidate for Virginia governor accused of antisemitism for alleging Soros plot against schools

‘Evoking George Soros as a shadowy funder is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory,’ Virginia Democrat says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 22 October 2021 20:10
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The Trump-backed Republican candidate for the Virginia governorship, Glenn Youngkin, has been accused of antisemitism for alleging that allies of Jewish Hungarian-American investor George Soros have worked to insert operatives into local school boards.

Speaking at a rally at the Burke Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, Mr Youngkin tried to connect Mr Soros and his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe to the cultural debates roiling school boards in northern Virginia suburbs.

Some parents are angry specifically at teaching initiatives that they associate with critical race theory – the academic movement looking at the intersection of race and the US criminal justice system.

The phrase has been weaponised by Republicans to fire up their voters, but teachers’ unions and some educators have said that some of the initiatives that have been labelled as critical race theory are in reality just efforts to teach history and civics.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, recently told The New York Times: “We should call this controversy what it is – a scare campaign cooked up by GOP operatives” and others to “limit our students’ education and understanding of historical and current events”.

“The present chaos in our schools lays squarely at the feet of 40-year politician Terry McAuliffe. It just does,” Mr Youngkin said on Tuesday. “But also at George Soros-backed allies, these allies that are in the left, liberal progressive movement. They’ve inserted political operatives into our school system disguised as school boards.”

Mr Soros has given tens of billions of dollars to charities, mostly via his pro-democracy Open Society Foundations network, and he’s often attacked by critics who use antisemitic tropes, such as the suggestion that Jewish people are in charge of society by working in the shadows.

Virginia Democratic representative Elaine Luria tweeted on Wednesday: “Evoking George Soros as a shadowy funder is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. This is an unacceptable statement from Glenn Youngkin.”

Mr Youngkin’s communications director Matt Wolking said in an email that the charge was “ridiculous partisan nonsense,” The Washington Post reported.

He responded to Ms Luria on Twitter by claiming that Mr Soros had given money to her campaign because he had donated funds to political action committees that had given money to her.

The Post inquired as to where in Virginia school board candidates had been supported by Mr Soros, to which the Younkin campaign responded with links to articles about funds connected to Mr Soros being donated to races for prosecutor positions, but nothing in connection to school boards.

Jewish organisations have previously expressed hesitation and concern about Mr Youngkin.

The CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Haile Soifer, told the Jewish news site Forward that Republicans in Virginia were using antisemitism to get political victories “and Youngkin is not disassociating himself from it”.

The outlet noted that a fundraising email signed by Mr Youngkin on 12 October mentioned two Jewish billionaires – Mr Soros and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“The out-of-touch politicians know they’re in trouble, which is why they’re calling on the likes of George Soros and Mike Bloomberg to bankroll their failing races,” the email said.

But Mr Youngkin has also tried to distance himself from the most right-wing elements of his party by skipping an event with former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and saying that he would have voted to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory after initially dodging the question.

The Independent has reached out to the Youngkin campaign for comment.

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