On 17 October 2018, United States Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) posted a video to Twitter and suggested, without evidence, that it showed a group of people being paid by billionaire George Soros to join a migrant caravan and storm the United States border:
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
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 17, 2018
This tweet was replete with factual inaccuracies and baseless accusations.
Congressman Matt Gaetz said that the clip presented "footage in Honduras," but the video was actually shot in Guatemala, where the pictured refugees were lined up in front of an auto shop in Chiquimula. The Facebook page for that business features an image of the same sign that can be seen in the background of the video:
The MiChiquimula Facebook page, a local site dedicated to information about Chiquimula, also posted a photograph showing this group of people lined up outside of the same buildings on 16 October 2018, the day before Gaetz shared his video:
Gaetz eventually relented and admitted that he had been wrong about the location of the video:
UPDATE: Because a Honduran government official sent me this video, I believed it came from Honduras. https://t.co/Jhh2231TNL
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 18, 2018
Rep. Gaetz also said that this video captured women and children being paid "2 join the caravan & storm the US border" (i.e., join a group of Honduran migrants seeking to reach the U.S). This, too, was inaccurate.
The MiChiquimula Facebook page reported that this group was already en route to the United States when they stopped in the Guatemalan city to board a bus. In other words, these people were not paid to "join" the caravan, as they were already a part of it:
Groups of Hondurans have chosen to travel aboard buses
Taking advantage of their passage through Esquipulas, this morning various Hondurans paid to continue their journey on bus, many of them accompanied by minors and babies."
Guatemalan journalist Luis Assardo managed to speak with some of the locals and confirmed to Splinter News that these migrants were already a part of the caravan, and that they were given some money to help them get by and not as an inducement to "join" the trek.
Gaetz also suggested that right-wing bogeyman George Soros was paying this group to "storm the US border." No evidence supports this claim, but plenty refutes it.
George Soros' name is often invoked by conspiracy theorists who assert he is a "puppet master" controlling world events. President Trump similarly accused the Hungarian billionaire (without evidence) on 5 October 2018 of paying protesters during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh,
The people seen in this video -- virtually all of whom were women, female children, and women with small children -- apparently each received a single banknote as they walked down a line, but the largest banknote in Guatemala is worth 200 Quetzales (approximately $25). Gaetz suggested in his tweet that Soros was paying this group of people to "join" a caravan and "storm" the U.S. border. If his accusation were true, that would mean that hundreds of vulnerable people decided to uproot their lives and embark on a nearly 1,500-mile journey at the risk of deportation, imprisonment, and having their children taken away from them, in order to interfere with an election that they were not directly involved in, all for $25 or less.
Another commenter noted the same thing, saying the travelers had received even less than 200 Quetzales:
What idiots for spreading disinformation. That's not funding -- that's helping your fellow man. Only somebody without a brain wouldn't notice that that the money is just a little bit of help for such a long journey ... only an idiot would cross thousands of kilometers to get a 50 Quetzales bill [approximately US $6].
The Open Society Foundation, which was founded by George Soros, responded to Gaetz on Twitter to note that neither they nor Soros had anything to do with these events:
We can save you the trouble, Congressman: Neither Mr. Soros nor Open Society are funding this effort. We do support the historic U.S. commitment to welcoming people fleeing oppression and violence in their homelands. Maybe you could investigate why they feel the need to flee.
— Open Society (@OpenSociety) October 18, 2018
In addition to the logical gymnastics required to make sense of Gaetz' accusation, Assardo reported that the money was likely raised by local merchants in the community and given to the refugees so that they could purchase supplies for their journey:
From what the locals told him, the money was collected by merchants -- either way, it was being given to migrants already on the caravan (likely so they could buy supplies), not to people so they would join [the caravan].
We reached out to Rep. Gaetz for more information about how he obtained this footage, what information was passed to him along with the video, and how he arrived at the conclusion that it showed people being paid by George Soros to join a caravan and storm the United States border. We did notreceive a response prior to publication.