A Campbell Soup executive was quickly shown the door after spreading a right-wing conspiracy theory that liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros is bankrolling a caravan of immigrants heading to the U.S. border.
Campbell vice president of government affairs Kelly Johnston, a former secretary of the U.S. Senate, tweeted Monday that Soros’ Open Society Foundation was providing aid to the caravan. There’s no evidence for a such a statement.
Johnston claimed that Soros’ organization was the puppet master behind “troop carriers” and “rail cars” moving the migrants. Johnston’s account is no longer active.
Johnston had been scheduled to leave the company in early November. But in the “last few days, the company and Mr. Johnston agreed that under the current circumstances it would be best to accelerate the timing of his departure,” a company representative said in a statement to Gizmodo. His last day was Thursday.
Campbell interim CEO Keith McLoughlin had earlier sent a letter to Soros’ Open Society following a complaint from the organization, saying that Johnston’s remarks were “inconsistent with how Campbell approaches public debate.”
Campbell “believes in truth and transparency. We expect our leaders to present facts, to deal with objective truths,” McLoughlin said in the letter. “Mr. Johnston’s remarks do not represent the position of Campbell.”
The controversy comes as investor Daniel Loeb and Campbell’s current board are locked in a battle for control of the company.
Soros has been the subject of attacks for decades. Conspiracy theorists capitalize on a well known anti-Semitic trope by characterizing the wealthy philanthropist as a puppetmaster secretly manipulating American politics with his money.
Soros received one of a series of pipe bombs sent in the mail last week allegedly by suspect Cesar Sayoc, a Trump supporter who was apparently targeting people attacked by the president.
Like Johnston, the suspected gunman in the anti-Semitic attack Saturday on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people, also believed Soros was responsible for the caravan, according to a social media post.
Soros’ Open Society Foundation said in a tweet that “neither Mr. Soros nor Open Society is funding” the migrant caravan. It added that the foundation does, however, “support the historic U.S. commitment to welcoming people fleeing oppression and violence in their homelands.”
Trump recently claimed that people protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court were paid “by Soros and others,” without any substantiation. Johnston also posted tweets indicating that Soros was funding anti-Kavanaugh protests, and referred to Soros as a “terrorist.”
After Soros received a pipe bomb last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) deleted a tweet attacking him and California businessman Tom Steyer and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, accusing them of trying to “buy” the midterm elections.
Steyer, who was also a pipe bomb target, on Sunday called McCarthy’s tweet a “straight-up anti-Semitic move.”