A YouTube video of an interview with a “paid protester” who claimed to be funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros is currently circulating on social media, as waves of protests continue to erupt across the U.S.
The footage—uploaded to the platform in 2017—has been circulating on Facebook and Twitter in recent days amid demonstrations sparked by the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, after an arrest by police in Minneapolis on May 25.
In the two minute clip, originally aired on the The Young Turks (TYT) news show, the unidentified man claims to have organized protests with money provided by Soros, a common trope used by conspiracy theorists—and president Trump.
The video has this week been shared on social media as evidence of nefarious behavior taking place during the most recent outburst of demonstrations in the country.
Michael Tracey, the journalist who conducted the original TYT interview, tweeted today to stress the segment was not to be taken seriously—despite it being shared by Greg Raths, a veteran running for California’s 45th Congressional District.
“People are… circulating this old interview I did with a ‘paid protester’ who said he was funded by George Soros. The guy was obviously trolling! It was a schtick. Anyone who actually believes this was authentic is incredibly gullible,” he tweeted.
There are some very clear signs in the original news segment that the unidentified man in the vox-pop was not a completely reliable source of information, including the claim he signed up to be a paid protester via a form on George Soros’ website.
“You just sign up, right there, you put your name in, you put your email address and there’s an empty box there where you say how many times you are willing to protest and how much you want to get paid,” the man says in the interview.
The interviewee claims the check came directly from Soros, and had been signed by the billionaire himself. “Does he sign it in blood?” Tracey responds.
“He even invited me to lunch,” the man continues. “He said if I’m willing to gather some more friends I can get paid, like, twice as much for every friend that I gather and kind of set up a pyramid scheme. I already have [got rich]. So basically I have been organizing most of the protesting you see in California so far, and it’s all due to being paid.”
With a smirk, he added: “If I wasn’t being paid I would be, you know, skiing. I just wish more people knew about it because then we could actually start a movement.”
People are apparently circulating this old interview I did with a “paid protester” who said he was funded by George Soros. The guy was obviously trolling! It was a schtick. Anyone who actually believes this was authentic is incredibly gullible, lol https://t.co/rpGA5R29bb
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) June 1, 2020
The false idea that Soros funded the protests spiked on social media over the past week, showing how new events can resurrect old conspiracy theories.
Soros has for years been cast as an anticonservative villain by a loose network of activists and political figures on the right and has become a convenient boogeyman for all manner of ills.
On Twitter, Soros was mentioned in 34,000 tweets in connection with George Floyd’s death over the past week, according to Dataminr.
Over 90 videos in five languages mentioning Soros conspiracies were also posted to YouTube over the past seven days, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
On Facebook, 72,000 posts mentioned Soros in the past week, up from 12,600 the week before, according to The Times’s analysis.
Of the 10 most engaged posts about Soros on the social network, nine featured false conspiracies linking him to the unrest.
They were collectively shared over 110,000 times.
Two of the top Facebook posts sharing Soros conspiracies were from Texas’ agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump.
“I have no doubt in my mind that George Soros is funding these so-called ‘spontaneous’ protests,” Miller wrote in one of the posts. “Soros is pure evil and is hell-bent on destroying our country!”
A spokeswoman for Soros said, “We deplore the false notion that the people taking to the streets to express their anguish are paid, by George Soros or anyone else.”