A State Department-aligned agency told The Daily Signal that the money it gave to a “disinformation” nonprofit had nothing to do with that organization’s targeting of conservative news outlets in America. 

Two agencies aligned with the State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Global Engagement Center, gave a combined $330,000 to the British-based nonprofit Global Disinformation Index, the Washington Examiner first reported. 

“NED works to advance rights and freedoms around the world and our mandate does not involve U.S. democracy,” Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for the National Endowment for Democracy, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Monday afternoon. 

The agency’s grant was aimed at “information integrity” in Africa and Asia, according to the Examiner. Funds may be used to help allies combat disinformaiton spread by authoritarian countries, Aun said. 

“We are not supporting any projects in the U.S. or funding GDI’s work regarding U.S. media,” Aun said of the Global Disinformation Index. “Our grant was for targeting disinformation used by China, Russia, Iran, and other authoritarian regimes.”

But Heritage Foundation national security expert James Carafano criticizes the State Department’s involvement, saying: “It really is transatlantic hate speech.”

The Biden administration previously has made broadly defined disinformation a priority. 

However, the National Endowment for Democracy—technically a nonprofit but funded mostly by Congress through the State Department—isn’t closing the door on providing more funding for the Global Disinformation Index in the future.

“Our staff look at all of the proposals and monitor for grant consideration,” Aun said. “Our board of directors, which is bipartisan, will make the decision. I can’t speak to the future. All grants will be reviewed for specificity.”

The Global Disinformation Index has targeted American news outlets and provided a list to U.S. advertising companies, the Examiner reported separately. 

The list labels about 40 media outlets and websites, including The Daily Signal and the Examiner, as containing “false/misleading” information. The list also lumps numerous news websites, most of them conservative, with advocacy or commentary websites.  

The GDI lists 10 news and commentary sites as among the “riskiest,” a list that doesn’t include either The Daily Signal or the Examiner. But the “riskiest” list does include RealClearPolitics, a website that publishes commentary from both the Right and Left. It also includes the New York Post, one of America’s top 10 newspapers in daily circulation, and the libertarian magazine Reason; the rest are conservative-leaning news and commentary outlets.

The index’s least risky outlets include those generally viewed as left-leaning, such as BuzzFeed News, HuffPost, NPR, and The New York Times. 

The National Endowment for Democracy technically is a private nonprofit. However, in fiscal year 2021, it got $300 million from the State Department. Congress authorized the endowment some 30 years ago. The organization issues more than 2,000 grants a year to 100 different countries. 

The endowment gave $230,000 to the AN Foundation, a GDI-affliliated group also known as the Disinformation Index Foundation. The grant was to “deepen understanding of the challenges to information integrity in the digital space” in Africa, Asia, and other foreign countries, the Examiner reported, and to “assess disinformation risks of local online media ecosystems.” 

The grant also stipulated that the Global Disinformation Index could compile “risk ratings” for advertising companies and others to assess “risks that arise from funding disinformation.”

A State Department spokesperson told the Examiner that Disinfo Cloud, a now defunct appendage of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, gave a total of $100,000 to the Global Disinformation Index between 2018 and 2021.

The Global Engagement Center’s stated mission is: “To direct, lead, synchronize, integrate, and coordinate U.S. federal government efforts to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and nonstate propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining or influencing the policies, security, or stability of the United States, its allies, and partner nations.”

The center is directly part of the State Department, unlike the National Endowment for Democracy. 

The State Department didn’t respond immediately to inquiries from The Daily Signal for this report. The Global Disinformation Index also didn’t respond to a request for comment 

Several agencies within the State Department are engaged in “transatlantic hate speech” to push a political agenda abroad that comes back to the United States, said Carafano, vice president for national security and foreign policy at The Heritage Foundation, which is the parent organization of The Daily Signal. 

Carafano noted that the U.S. Agency for International Development has funded the political opposition to the government of Hungary, which is an ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organizaton. Money is also fungible for groups that attack U.S. news outlets, he said. 

“This is why some people are skeptical about why we are always spending money on foreign aid. This is a case where that skepticism is 1,000% justified,” Carafano told The Daily Signal

“Essentially they fund organizations abroad to demonize allied governments they don’t like, because they don’t like their politics, then want that same organization to parrot back to the U.S. that conservative media in the United States is just like the government which they hate. It really is transatlantic hate speech.”

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