President Donald Trump is waiting in trepidation as a caravan of some 4,000 Honduran migrants and refugees, many of them children, approach the U.S./Mexico border while fleeing violence and instability in their home country.
But to many of his supporters, like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), something far more sinister is going on.
On Wednesday evening, in response to footage that appears to show some of the migrants being given money, Gaetz posted a bizarre, racist tweet in which he appeared to speculate that George Soros was paying the Hondurans to go to the U.S. border to disrupt the midterm elections.
BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source! pic.twitter.com/5pEByiGkkN# p #4_17 # ad skipped = true #
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 17, 2018# p #5_17 # ad skipped = true #
George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire and Holocaust survivor known for his philanthropy and support of liberal causes, has long been the focus of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from the far right. Trump himself recently tried to blame Soros for hiring the sexual assault survivors protesting the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.
Gaetz’s statement immediately drew condemnation, including from media executive and former CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien:
The racism in the GOP runs deep. https://t.co/E1DJ0sHiQh# p #8_17 # ad skipped = true #
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) October 18, 2018# p #9_17 # ad skipped = true #
Gaetz hit back on Thursday morning:
The lazy identity politics of the left runs so much deeper, Soledad. This is now what the political left offers America. Everyone is a racist. Give me a break. (Keep in mind I got this video from people inside the Honduran government through a senior US official) #OpenGaetz https://t.co/BJiSZVdVwW# p #11_17 # ad skipped = true #
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) October 18, 2018# p #12_17 # ad skipped = true #
And O’Brien was quick to retort:
Actually Congressman, I don’t think everyone is a racist, though you are an excellent example of the challenge the GOP has around race and racism. Inviting a white nationalist to SOTU/ Racist comments to your colleagues. The laziness is yours, @mattgaetz Do better. https://t.co/qOEAx2ey6n# p #14_17 # ad skipped = true #
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) October 18, 2018# p #15_17 # ad skipped = true #
O’Brien is referring to a controversy in which Gaetz invited Chuck Johnson, a far-right internet troll known for denying the Holocaust, to Trump’s State of the Union Address. Following a letter of condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League, Gaetz pleaded ignorance, saying Johnson just “showed up at my office” and he gave him the ticket without knowing his views. However, a few months later, Gaetz found himself at another event with Johnson.
This sort of evidence-free, nativist fearmongering is completely inappropriate from a congressman. But from Gaetz, it is not at all a surprise.