James Comer demands records on State Dept. funding group Blacklisting Conservatives
This is part of a Washington Examiner series on self-styled ‘disinformation’ tracking groups that are blacklisting and trying to defund conservative media. Here is where you can read other stories in the series.
EXCLUSIVE — Rep. James Comer (R-KY), chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, is demanding records and a State Department briefing related to the agency bankrolling a “disinformation” tracking group that is blacklisting conservative news outlets.
Between 2020 and 2021, the State Department-backed Global Engagement Center and National Endowment for Democracy granted $665,000 combined to the Global Disinformation Index, which is taking steps to shut down disfavored speech. Now, the State Department is being pressed for answers by Comer on this funding, which he has called an “attack on the First Amendment,” according to a Thursday letter first obtained by the Washington Examiner.
“American taxpayer dollars should never be used to suppress our First Amendment rights protected in the U.S. Constitution,” Comer told the Washington Examiner. “The fact that the State Department allowed federal funds to flow to foreign organizations who seek to blacklist American news organizations goes against our core values. Secretary [Antony] Blinken must provide the American people with answers about this abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
Republicans, including Comer and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), have continued to raise concerns over the State Department’s ties to GDI, a British entity with two affiliated American nonprofit organizations. GDI compiles a “dynamic exclusion list” with the websites it labels as the foremost peddlers of alleged “disinformation” and stealthily feeds it to advertising companies.
There are at least 2,000 websites on this blacklist, which has “had a significant impact on [their] advertising revenue,” according to GDI CEO Clare Melford. The Washington Examiner learned it is on the list, and GDI has said that the 10 “riskiest” websites, which are all right-leaning, are the American Spectator, Newsmax, the Federalist, the American Conservative, One America News, the Blaze, the Daily Wire, RealClearPolitics, Reason, and the New York Post.
A major development came on Monday, when the Washington Examiner reported that the NED said will no longer provide grants to GDI. The NED said its 2020 and 2021 grants to GDI, which total $545,000, have been spent but that it wants “to avoid the perception that NED is engaged in any work domestically, directly or indirectly.”
The other State Department-linked grant to GDI, which was $100,000, came from the Global Engagement Center, according to records. It was administered as part of the U.S.-Paris Tech Challenge, which aimed “to advance the development of promising and innovative technologies against disinformation and propaganda” overseas.
“The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is investigating reports that federal funds administered by the Department of State (Department) were used to suppress lawful speech and defund disfavored news outlets under the guise of combatting disinformation,” Comer wrote in his letter. “The Committee is disturbed by recent reporting that taxpayer money ended up in the hands of a foreign organization running an advertising blacklist of organizations accused of hosting disinformation on their websites, including several conservative-leaning news organizations.”
Comer is asking for a trove of documents and communications by March 9, and he added that his committee would like to be briefed no later than March 2.
Header featured image (edited) credit: Comer/orginal WaEX article
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