Far-Right Influencers Defended an Accused Fraudster. They Had Help.

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Before Guo Wengui was indicted in a massive fraud scheme, his supporters appear to have successfully placed op-eds in conservative media.

In MAGA world, Karoline Leavitt is a rising star. A former Trump White House staffer, she won national notice last year when, at just 25 years of age, she captured the GOP nomination for a New Hampshire congressional seat. In April, she was hired as a spokesperson by Trump’s super-PAC. But earlier this year, her focus seemed to be elsewhere. She published a series of op-eds heaping praise on Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese mogul and ally of Steve Bannon who has styled himself a leading critic of the Chinese Communist Party. Guo, who also goes by Miles Guo, has since been arrested and indicted in a massive fraud case.

Leavitt isn’t alone. In recent months, a host of right-wing news outlets published enthusiastic defenses of Guo and attacks on his critics. Many of these opinion pieces closely echoed a set of talking points circulated among Guo’s fanatical supporters. Often, the writers used specific words or phrasing that the appear to have been lifted directly from the prewritten talking points. Guo’s backers, it seems, arranged for a number of conservative writers to use their platforms to repeat prefabricated arguments defending Guo’s conduct.

The op-eds were highly specific. In the far-right Epoch Times—as well as on a conservative site called Headline USA—Leavitt penned attacks on people involved in a 2017 lobbying scheme to force Guo’s extradition to China, where he faces fraud and rape charges. (Guo denies those allegations.) For Headline USA, Leavitt also wrote about a 2017 hack of computers at a law firm that was representing Guo in an asylum bid. She echoed a claim Guo made in a lawsuit against the firm, calling the obscure, six-year-old incident “a disturbing reminder of the lengths to which authoritarian regimes will go to silence dissent and suppress free speech.”

These were not random choices. Leavitt’s articles about Guo appear to have been researched and suggested to her by Guo supporters. According to a report published in May by journalist Walker Bragman in OptOut, an independent media outlet, Guo backers provided “prompts as well as pre-prepared drafts” to several far-right authors who agreed to publish the material—which they were free to edit—under their own names. According to Bragman’s report, those authors included Leavitt; Gavin Wax, who heads the New York Young Republicans Club; Matt Palumbo, who works for the Dan Bongino Show and writes for various right-leaning publications; and Natalie Winters, a co-host on Steve Bannon’s streaming show, War Room. Most of the op-eds ran prior to March 15, when Guo was indicted for allegedly defrauding his fans with phony investment schemes.

Mother Jones largely confirmed Bragman’s report, which cites a source involved in the effort and communications related to placing the op-eds. Some of the writers, including Leavitt, Wax, and Palumbo, published pro-Guo articles that hewed closely to a document featuring suggested topics and talking points prepared in advance by Guo supporters.

For example, this document—which I obtained—calls for an article with the proposed headline: “Professional Communist Moneyman: How Chinese Billionaires Are Bankrolling the CCP’s Foreign Expansion.”

“This article should focus on three people: Bruno Wu, Shan Weijian, and Jho Low,” that prompt says. “These three CCP billionaires, or white gloves, are the primary source of illegitimate funding for the CCP’s unrestricted warfare abroad, including the CCP’s #1 priority goal of removing Miles.” 

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