John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s pick to be his new national security advisor, has a long association with a group infamous for its role in publishing fake news and spreading hate about Muslims.
Bolton wears many hats. He serves as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, as a contributor to Fox News, and controls a Super PAC that used money from the billionaire Mercer family to help elect congressional Republicans.
But one role that has received relatively little scrutiny is his work as chairman of the Gatestone Institute, a nonprofit that focuses largely on publishing original commentary and news related to the threat Islam poses to western society. He has served in that role since 2013. (Bolton did not respond to an email seeking comment.)
The steady drum beat of vitriol is visible visiting the site on almost any given day.
Just this week, the Gatestone Institute published stories claiming that the “mostly Muslim male migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East” in Germany are fueling a “migrant rape crisis” and that “Muslim mass-rape gangs” are transforming the United Kingdom into “an Islamist Colony.”
The website routinely portrays Muslim migrants and refugees as an existential threat to Europe and the United States, claiming that immigrants bring “highly infectious diseases,” genital mutilation practices, and terror to any nation that accepts them. The site spent years sharply criticizing the Obama administration for having a “traditional Muslim bias” against Christians.
The lurid headlines, which are translated into multiple languages and distributed widely through Gatestone’s social media page and its partners in the conservative media, are rarely supported by the evidence.
Take the story this week about the migrant rape crisis in Germany. Penned by Gatestone “senior fellow” Soeren Kern, the piece lists recent rapes and sexual assaults in Berlin and other cities and attributes the crimes all to Muslim immigrants even though the story simultaneously concedes elsewhere that the identities of the attackers have not been revealed by German police.
Similar far-fetched tales about the threat posed by Muslim migrants in Europe have been debunked. Last year, Gatestone claimed that officials in Germany were seizing homes to be provided to “hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.” The racially tinged article wasn’t remotely true. German media noted that under Hamburg’s strict housing laws, a single house in the city was placed into temporary trusteeship after it remained vacant. “Refugees did not play a role in the district’s decision,” noted Correctiv, a local watchdog group.
The fact-checking website Snopes has found multiple viral false stories originating with Gatestone. For instance, the site claimed falsely that London, called “Londonistan” in the piece, 423 mosques were built “on the sad ruins of English Christianity,” as 500 churches closed. But the story cherry-picked the data to ignore hundreds of newly opened churches. (Additional fact check: the city is still called “London.”)
Many of the fake stories have percolated into mainstream U.S. politics. Gatestone was largely responsible for the false claim that there are “no go” zones through Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, and other European states where Muslim immigrants have set up a parallel society in which local police no longer enforce the law.
The claim infiltrated the 2016 Republican primary, with Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump repeating the uninformed “no go” zone claim (to the later great embarrassment of U.S. ambassador Pete Hoekstra). While many conservative outlets eventually parroted the myth, Gatestone had pushed the idea since 2012, and has published dozens of pieces on the claim since.
As the Intercept previously reported, Gatestone is largely funded by Nina Rosenwald, the heir to the Sears, Rosebuck & Company department store fortune. Though the Rosenwald family was once a champion of Jewish refugees during the second world war, Rosenwald has financed a number of efforts to vilify Muslims attempting to escape bloodshed in Africa and the Middle East.
Bolton has made no effort to conceal his close ties to the forces of Islamophobia. As reporter Eli Clifton noted, Bolton wrote the foreward to a book authored by Robert Spencer and Pamella Geller, two American activists that have led the charge in protesting mosques and spreading conspiracy theories about the threat posed by Islam.
The hate has in someways been a lucrative career path. Bolton, for his efforts, has collected at least $310,00 from the Gatestone Institute in payments, according to publicly available form 990 tax disclosures.
The website has not only influenced U.S. politics but also attempted to influence recent European elections in France, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany. The site has promoted far right anti-Muslim populists running for office across the continent. In Germany, politicians from Alternative for Germany (AfD), the rabidly anti-immigrant far right party, regularly shared Gatestone articles on Facebook and Twitter during the election last year. Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Muslim firebrand, is a guest author on the site.
And now its chairman is the national security advisor to the president of the United States.
In a file photo John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, takes a question from the media at the Japan press club in Tokyo Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007.