NEW YORK (AP) — A bomb was found in a mailbox at the suburban New York home of George Soros, the liberal billionaire philanthropist who has been denounced by President Donald Trump and vilified by right-wing conspiracy theorists, authorities said Tuesday.
Federal agents safely detonated the device after being summoned Monday by a security officer at the sprawling, wooded compound, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Manhattan. The 88-year-old Soros was not home at the time.
Laura Silber, a spokeswoman for Soros’ Open Society Foundations, blamed the country’s toxic political environment.
In recent days and weeks, Soros has been accused of being the hidden hand behind some of the opposition to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and helping to create the caravan of Central Americans making their way toward the U.S.
“The hateful rhetoric that dominates politics in the U.S. and in so many countries around the world breeds extremism and violence,” Silber said in a statement. “In this climate of fear, falsehoods and rising authoritarianism, just voicing your views can draw death threats.”
The FBI confirmed it was involved in an investigation but declined to comment. The New York Police Department said that as a precaution, it was sending counterterrorism officers to all Soros-connected sites in the city.
Federal investigators were reviewing surveillance video to determine whether the package containing the bomb had been sent through the mail or delivered some other way, officials said.
They said it was unclear if the parcel was addressed to Soros.
A federal law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation said the device contained explosive powder.
Another federal official who also spoke on condition of anonymity said it appeared to be a pipe bomb and was in a package placed in a mailbox outside the gates of the compound. A Soros employee opened it just inside the gates, nowhere near Soros’ quarters, the official said.
Soros, a Hungarian immigrant to the U.S. who made his fortune in hedge funds, frequently donates to liberal causes and has pledged to invest a half-billion dollars to programs that help people who flee their home countries because of civil war, poverty or political oppression.
“Soros is seen as the boogeyman on just about every right-wing conspiracy theory floating out there,” said J.J. MacNab, a domestic extremism expert at George Washington University. “The sheer volume of chatter makes it probable that someone acted on key figures, mainstream figures, pointing the finger at him. Usually this stuff would just float around on the Internet, but in today’s climate it’s mainstream, where you have elected officials spouting conspiracy theories.”
Soros has been a favorite target conservative commentators, who have accused him of waging war against capitalism and having a secret agenda to destabilize the U.S. government.
As a child in Hungary during World War II, Soros had to hide his Jewish roots, but he is frequently falsely accused of collaborating with Nazis.
Soros has repeatedly denied such allegations.
Most recently, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida speculated on Twitter that Soros was paying Central American women and children to join the group of migrants headed toward the U.S., though he later backtracked, speculating that drug cartels were to blame.
Trump himself tweeted the suggestion that “Soros and others” were behind the “rude elevator screamers” and activists with “professionally made identical signs” who protested in Washington during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.
Activists frequently post the addresses of Soros’ homes on social media, sometimes along with threats.
Silber said Soros is calling on politicians across the political spectrum to “tone down their rhetoric.”
“Words have consequences,” she said.