WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – A group of 12 House Republicans sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday demanding answers regarding the State Department’s funding for a British firm that released a list of 2,000 news sites it deemed to peddle “disinformation,” including Breitbart and the New York Post, to advertising companies.
The letter, led by Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, demands that Blinken provide answers to questions regarding funding for a George Soros-backed British firm called the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. Other signers of the letter include Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Barry Moore of Alabama.
It’s time for Secretary Blinken to be transparent about the State Department’s involvement and knowledge of the GDI’s dangerous blacklisting and censorship efforts so we can ensure this violation of Americans’ First Amendment freedoms never happens again. https://t.co/6FBfGJZC5X
— Rep. Andrew Clyde (@Rep_Clyde) March 11, 2023
“These grants have real-world implications, chilling freedom of expression and speech with impunity,” the letter states.
“For example, considering the Energy Department and FBI’s new determination that the Coronavirus most likely arose from a Wuhan lab leak, this taxpayer-funded British outfit pressured advertising companies to ‘punish’ websites that dared to report on the entirely legitimate lab leak theory.”
The letter further states that the NED and the Global Engagement Center gave GDI a combined $645,000 in grants between 2020 and 2021, most of it coming from an NED grant of $545,000.
The letter concludes with questions directed to Blinken, asking why the State Department is “sending taxpayer dollars to a foreign organization that polices and suppresses domestic American information,” if Blinken thinks it appropriate that a foreign organization “perform Risk Assessments on domestic American news outlets with taxpayer dollars,” and how funding GDI could help American national security interests.
The letter also asks if the department was consulted with GDI’s analysis of “disinformation,” including two reports from the organization late last year, and whether the State Department or entities related to the department were asked by former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, officials in the Democratic National Committee, the Biden administration, or the federal government, to fund GDI.
Blinken has until March 30 to respond to the letter.
GDI claims that it gives “risk ratings” for news sites for “advertising technology companies to ensure advertisers money and brands do not end up supporting” disinformation, according to its website.
Last October, GDI deemed that among the sites least “risky” sites for disinformation were the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. The “riskiest” sites for disinformation included the New York Post, Real Clear Politics, the Daily Wire, The Blaze, and the Federalist.
The organization also garnered attention last month after a Washington Examiner report found that GDI has a “dynamic exclusion list” that rates news sites based on their “risk” factor. The Examiner found that at least 2,000 sites were placed on the list, including itself.
Speaking to the Washington Times, NED spokesperson Leslie Aun said that while NED gave GDI grants, it was not for the sake of censoring American political speech, adding that the grants were “very narrowly focused on an initiative to identify and combat the disinformation flowing from authoritarian regimes, particularly China.”
NED stated last month that stopped funding GDI in the wake of the Examiner’s reporting in an effort to “avoid the perception” that it is doing “any work domestically, directly or indirectly,” as it focuses on foreign matters. NED also claimed that GDI’s “initiative” was “funded by a different donor.”
A spokesperson from the State Department told LifeSiteNews, “As a general matter, we do not comment on congressional correspondence nor on our communications with Congress,” and that the department “is committed to working with Congressional committees with jurisdiction over U.S. foreign policy to accommodate their need for information to help them conduct oversight for their legitimate legislative purposes.”
The spokesperson added that the role of the Global Engagement Center is “to identify foreign state and non-state disinformation aimed at undermining or influencing the security of the United States, its allies, and partners.”
Clyde’s letter follows a similar letter sent Wednesday to Blinken by Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, with Buck asking Blinken how many entities the department may be funding that “implicate the free speech rights of American citizens.”
Clyde’s letter also follows the deadline from a request of documents from the House Oversight Committee Chairman, Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, who asked Blinken for documents related to GDI grants.
The letter also comes as Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio issued a subpoena to Nina Jankowicz, former head of the now-defunct Disinformation Governance Board, as part of his investigation into the “weaponization” of the federal government.