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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Chinese Billionaire Gets Writers to Front Ghosted Op-Eds

Walker Bragman at OptOut:
Operatives representing rightwing Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who was charged in March for orchestrating a vast financial fraud scheme, have been secretly recruiting prominent conservatives—including the head of the New York Young Republicans Club—to write opinion pieces on his behalf in order to bolster his image as a dissident, according to an investigation by Important Context and the OptOut Media Foundation. Many of the pieces were published in high-traffic rightwing outlets.

Once a powerful businessman, Guo has been a prominent critic of the Chinese Communist Party since fleeing his home country in 2014 after being accused of bribery, rape, kidnapping, and other charges. Guo’s vocal advocacy has earned him a devoted following among the Chinese diaspora and made him a favorite of the American right as it postures against the rising eastern power. Guo is perhaps best known as the longtime business partner of Steve Bannon, a rightwing extremist and former top aide to Donald Trump, with whom Guo has launched multiple ventures purportedly aimed at overthrowing the Chinese Communist Party.

Guo’s collaboration with established rightwing figures in the U.S. was aimed at manipulating the media to bolster his credibility. A source with knowledge of the Guo network’s operations, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect their livelihood, outlined to Important Context/OptOut how representatives working on behalf of Guo would recruit the writers to place their names on opinion pieces that spoke glowingly of him and his efforts while criticizing his adversaries.

The writers would take prompts as well as pre-prepared drafts, which they could then edit. The pieces were distributed to various media outlets, including far-right Newsmax, Gateway Pundit, Townhall, The Washington Times, and Headline USA, under the conservative writers’ bylines.

Important Context/OptOut obtained and reviewed documentation showing that writers involved in the arrangement included New York Young Republicans Club President Gavin Wax, Bannon’s War Room co-host Natalie Winters, podcaster Kelly Walker, and former Trump aide and congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt. (None of the four writers, nor any of the outlets—Newsmax, Gateway Pundit, Townhall, The Washington Times, and Headline USA—responded to our requests for comment.)