Reuters is drawing heavy criticism -- including from some of its own journalists -- for an article which attempts to connect the Occupy Wall Street movement to liberal billionaire George Soros.
Soros is, of course, a figure of loathing for many on the right (most famously, Glenn Beck has long portrayed him as something of a spider at the center of a nefarious progressive web). Therefore, any evidence that Soros' money is backing the Occupy Wall Street protests would surely be a boon to any conservative opponents of the movement.
The Reuters article, however, does not present much concrete proof that Soros is more than ideologically connected to Occupy Wall Street. It says that Soros' name "keeps coming up" in "speculation" about the backers of the movement. While noting that Soros and the protesters have both denied links, the article goes on to say that there are "indirect financial links between Soros and Adbusters, an anti-capitalist group in Canada which started the protests with an inventive marketing campaign aimed at sparking an Arab Spring type uprising against Wall Street."
The article then quotes Rush Limbaugh stating flatly that Soros was behind Occupy Wall Street.
The links Reuters presents are somewhat convoluted. The writers of the article found that Soros had contributed money to the Tides Foundation, a progressive San Francisco non-profit, and that Tides had contributed money to Adbusters over a period of several years, ending in 2010.
The article drew swift criticism. Salon's Alex Pareene said the wire service had "shamelessly sexed up a very dry story about the origins of the protest by sticking Soros' name on top." A blogger for New York's Daily Intel called the evidence "awfully thin" and said the story would not be out of place on Fox News. Media professor Jay Rosen said that the story was "pathetic."
Several Reuters journalists also attacked the story. Business and media writer Felix Salmon called the article "ridiculous" and social media editor Anthony DeRosa said, "When I read 'Rush Limbaugh summed up the speculation' I wanted to crawl under a rock."
UPDATE, 10/14: Reuters made a series of odd decisions after the story drew widespread derision. As the New York Observer reported, the original story was initially changed substantially, and with no clarification. The new version led off by flatly stating that Soros was not a backer of Occupy Wall Street. Then, Reuters reverted to its original story, only with a new headline saying that Soros was not involved.