National security adviser John Bolton, second from left, listens to President Donald Trump, far right, speak during a working lunch with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump’ s private Mar-a-Lago club on April 18.Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
WASHINGTON — John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, chaired a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news, some of which was amplified by a Russian troll factory, an NBC News review found.
The group’s authors also appeared on Russian media, including Sputnik and RT News, criticizing mainstream European leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron.
The group has published numerous stories and headlines on its website with similar themes. “Germany Confiscating Homes to Use for Migrants,” warned one from May 2017, about a single apartment rental property in Hamburg that had gone into temporary trusteeship. Another from February 2015 claimed the immigrants, for instance Somalis, in Sweden were turning that country into the “Rape Capital of the West.”
Gatestone is “a key part of the whole Islamaphobic cottage industry on the internet,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights and advocacy group.
Hooper added that Bolton being associated with Gatestone, “and in one of the most powerful positions on the planet, is very disturbing.”
On its web page, Gatestone says it is a nonpartisan nonprofit “dedicated to educating the public about what the mainstream media fails to report” on a variety of topics, including human rights, free speech and energy.
Alina Polyakova, a Brookings Institution fellow who studies far-right populism and disinformation campaigns in the European Union, said Gatestone is “putting out content that was clearly anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and was echoing some of the Russian disinformation propaganda” being spread by internet trolls and on social media.
Polyakova said she and others in the Washington foreign policy community were “surprised” Bolton had chaired the group.
Bolton formally started as national security adviser in early April. He has continued to meet with White House attorneys over possible conflicts of interest, including his political action committee, and his affiliation with Gatestone is a potential focus.
The NSC said it does not respond to inquiries about outside organizations but confirmed Bolton is aware of the story.
Bolton doesn’t appear to have had his name on the anti-Muslim articles at issue on Gatestone’s website, focusing his pieces instead on Iran and other topics. Even so, he has a long association with Pamela Geller, an anti-Islamic activist who organized a campaign against a mosque near 9/11’s ground zero in Manhattan, having written the foreword for a book she co-wrote and appearing on her internet radio show.