The image features a Photoshopped image of billionaire George Soros moving a chess piece representing an antifa protestor against pieces representing COVID-19, seemingly implying that Soros is paying protestors. Brownlee posted it to his Twitter and Instagram accounts yesterday (June 2), but the posts have since been deleted. Brownlee has yet to comment on the allegations of anti-Semitism.
UPDATE (6/3, 7:30 p.m. ET): Brownlee has now commented on the allegations. He wrote, "I sincerely apologize for sharing an image last night on social media that was wrong, inappropriate and could be perceived as racist." Read his full statement on Twitter.
Soros, who is Jewish, is the subject of a conspiracy theory that claims he has direct control over the media, and has personally shaped the media depiction of major sociopolitical events, particularly in relation to progressive causes. The theory is tied to a larger anti-Semitic belief that Jewish people have outsized control over the media.
A screenshot of the deleted post includes an image of Brownlee allegedly responding to a commenter. Brownlee's response said, "This man plays a massive role in what the media puts out and how protests are televised. Awareness of this power structure is key if we want to start to understand the pieces that are being moved around us."
Brownlee's posts come during a resurgence in unproven claims about Soros, this time centred around allegations that Soros is funding the recent protests in support of Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. In response to the claims, a representative of Soros's stated to the New York Times, "We deplore the false notion that the people taking to the streets to express their anguish are paid, by George Soros or anyone else."
Brownlee's expressed beliefs have been met with criticism from others in the music industry, including former collaborator Donovan Woods, who tweeted, "This is a country singer I've written songs for in the past. You can rest assured that I won't be doing that again."
Jonathan Simkin, head of 604 Records and Light Organ Records, wrote, "Blackout Tuesday was supposed to be a day to acknowledge, contemplate and protest racism in all forms. And to inspire change. Some people, however, used it to promote bullshit anti-semitic conspiracy theories. Hey @ChadBrownlee. When are you going to issue an apology for this?"
Read Brownlee's apology, followed by Woods and Simkin's responses to the initial post, below.
I apologize for any hurt this may have caused pic.twitter.com/aA0UWoktjP— Chad Brownlee (@ChadBrownlee) June 3, 2020
This is a country singer I've written songs for in the past. You can rest assured that I won't be doing that again. pic.twitter.com/39QIpyF33R— Donovan Woods (@DonovanWoods) June 3, 2020
Blackout Tuesday was supposed to be a day to acknowledge, contemplate and protest racism in all forms. And to inspire change. Some people, however, used it to promote bullshit anti-semitic conspiracy theories. Hey @ChadBrownlee. When are you going to issue an apology for this? pic.twitter.com/8UMJybi5Ik— Jonathan Simkin (@JonathanSimkin) June 3, 2020