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NYT blames Russian trolls for amplifying antisemitism allegations that took down the Women’s March movement

The New York Times published a report over the weekend claiming that the outrage over the controversial ties of the Women’s March organizers, which eventually dismantled the movement, was fabricated by Russian internet trolls who were deployed by the Kremlin in 2017 to enflame “racial and ethnic tensions.”

In the Sunday piece titled “How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step,” reporter Ellen Berry claimed that the online uproar over event organizers, particularly Linda Sarsour’s close alliance with radical Nation of Islam leader and outspoken antisemite Louis Farrakhan was mostly manufactured by online Russian trolls posing as “fictional Americans” whose job was to draft social media posts aimed at undermining the movement.

Accusations of antisemitic affiliations against Sarsour, a Palestinian activist who has embraced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, prompted some of the event’s largest sponsors and progressive organizations to publicly distance from the group. The accusations of antisemitism fractured the group’s momentum, leaving “lasting scars on the American left,” Berry wrote.


“But there is also a story that has not been told, one that only emerged years later in academic research, of how Russia inserted itself into this moment,” she continued.

Berry said Sarsour’s ties – some of which she claims were “fabricated” by the Russians – were “singled out” because she wore a Hijab, which “marked her as an observant Muslim.

“Over the 18 months that followed, Russia’s troll factories and its military intelligence service put a sustained effort into discrediting the movement by circulating damning, often fabricated narratives around Ms. Sarsour, whose activism made her a lightning rod for Mr. Trump’s base and also for some of his most ardent opposition,” she wrote.

Berry said an investigation found 152 Russian accounts produced material about Sarsour, totaling approximately 2,642 tweets about her, “many of which found large audiences,” she wrote.

“[Forty-eight] hours after the march, a shift of tone occurred online, with a surge of posts describing Ms. Sarsour as a radical jihadi who had infiltrated American feminism,” Berry wrote. “Ms. Sarsour recalls this vividly, because she woke to a worried text message from a friend and glanced at Twitter to find that she was trending.

“Not all of this backlash was organic,” she went on. “That week, Russian amplifier accounts began circulating posts that focused on Ms. Sarsour, many of them inflammatory and based on falsehoods, claiming she was a radical Islamist, ‘a pro-ISIS Anti USA Jew Hating Muslim’ who ‘was seen flashing the ISIS sign.’”

As the strength of the coalition began to fade, Russian accounts supposedly “boosted their output around Mr. Farrakhan and the Women’s March leaders that spring, posting 10 or 20 times a day,” Berry said.

However, Berry acknowledged, while the report cites Russia as a key driver before the Women’s March dissolution, “there is no evidence that they were a primary driver of the conversation” against the group’s organizers.”


The Times report garnered backlash on social media over the weekend, with critics accusing the Grey Lady of whitewashing the antisemitic undertones of the Women’s March by casting them as victims of online Russian trolls.

“This story is ridiculous,” prominent attorney Ted Frank wrote on Twitter. “Russian trolls didn’t make Linda Sarsour be anti-Semitic or associate with Farrakhan.”

“This is such a telling article in the New York Times,” international security professor Max Abrahms agreed. “The story condemns disinformation but actually promotes it by blaming the backlash to Linda Sarsour on Russia lol.”

“Linda Sarsour has an extensive record of bigotry and hate that has nothing to do with Russian trolls,” conservative writer A.G. Hamilton wrote. “ Thinking that some alleged Russian trolls contributing a few tweets to the criticism aimed at her excuses that is nonsense and shame on you for suggesting it.”


Jim Hanson, executive director of America Matters, called the piece a “sad attempt to deflect f[ro]m the fact that Womens March leaders were anti-Semitic terror apologists.

“Decent people felt sick when they saw this evil hag speaking at the march,” Hanson wrote.

New York Post columnist Miranda Devine said the report is an “example of @NYTimes exaggerating Russian disinfo and ignoring Dem disinfo in defense of its protected classes: 5000 words about 2600 tweets in 18 months from Russian troll/bots on Linda Sarsour’s anti-Semitism.”


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