Dutch populist who quit in anti-Semitism row ‘backed Soros virus conspiracies’

Dutch populist Thierry Baudet backed conspiracy theories accusing George Soros of being behind the coronavirus pandemic, a lawmaker says after Baudet quit the Forum for Democracy party over an anti-Semitism row.

Discussing the scandal over pro-Nazi messages sent by party youth members, Baudet also proclaimed that “almost everyone I know is an anti-Semite,” senator Nicki Pouw-Verweij says in a letter quoted by Dutch media Thursday.

The senator says she is revealing the alleged comments made by Baudet at a dinner of senior party members last Friday because they were concerned that he had become “radicalized” and supported conspiracy theories.

The suave Baudet — whose resignation as Forum for Democracy leader on Tuesday deprives the party of its founder and figurehead just months before elections — denied making the statements or holding anti-Semitic views.

The row has split one of the Netherlands’ fastest-rising parties, which launched in 2016, won two seats in elections in 2017, then saw support surge in senate and EU elections in 2019.

Dutch right-wing leader of the Forum for Democracy (FVD) party Thierry Baudet (C) speaks to the press in the Senate of the Netherlands, on February 5, 2020, in the Hague. (Photo by Sem VAN DER WAL / ANP / AFP)

In her letter, quoted by many Dutch newspapers and broadcasters, Pouw-Verweij says that during the dinner Baudet “proclaimed that corona had been brought into the world by George Soros and others… to take away our freedom and start a new world domination.”

Soros, the Jewish billionaire supporter of liberal causes, has been the target of repeated conspiracy theories promoted by right-wing groups and labeled anti-Semitic by critics.

The conversation then turned to the scandal over party youth workers sharing online chats containing anti-Semitic material and praising the Nazis.

Former academic Baudet rejected expelling the youth members, saying they “have a very high IQ”, and telling Pouw-Verweij that “almost everyone I know is anti-Semite.”

Two other party members who attended the dinner confirmed her account, broadcaster NOS says.

Baudet has since said that he has a “completely different memory” of the dinner.

“I deny that I made those statements and that I have anti-Semitic views,” NOS quoted him as telling a talk show.

The row in the party has escalated to farcical levels, with Baudet refusing to give up control of its social media account, while the party leadership changed the locks on its office to keep him out.