Congressman Adam Schiff (D- CA) does not have a sister.
Normally, this would be about as controversial a statement as “Tuesday comes after Monday.” It’s a settled fact, and shouldn’t be debated on internet forums.
But as we’ve learned over the years, just because something is a settled fact doesn’t mean it’s not going to be debated on internet forums. And Adam Schiff’s sister, despite not existing, has become the topic of the moment all over the Trump-supporting fever swamp of blogs, message boards, and social media.
To them, not only did Adam Schiff’s sister not lack corporeality, but she had a name: Melissa. And not only was Melissa Schiff the sister of the Congressman who, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has been maybe the biggest pain in the ass to Donald Trump, she also was married to Robert Soros, the son of Hungarian billionaire philanthropist and progressive benefactor George Soros.
And the 86-year-old Soros is the ur of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, accused of doing everything from personally crashing the economy in 2008 to funding the rise of antifa and Black Lives Matter in order to foment domestic insurrection.
A bunch of dodgy ultraconservative sites seemed to spontaneously “reveal” “Adam Schiff’s shocking ties to George Soros.” They included supposed massive amounts of money going from Soros to Schiff, and likely marching orders from Soros to Schiff, sending the ranking member on his vendetta against Trump.
And just like that, inflammatory memes started appearing all over Twitter. They were spread by the usual coalition of Trump droogs and Russian bots, and designed to take a chunk out of a Democratic irritant to President Trump by tying him to a person they perceive as maybe the biggest enemy of freedom in the world.
So what’s really going on here? And why is Schiff the subject of the kinds of conspiracy theories normally reserved for the Clintons?
The vast majority of conspiracy theories don’t just appear out of nowhere. They have a grain of truth to them, which gets twisted into something far beyond the initial fact. It becomes unrecognizable, and often, it gets lost in the frenzy.
In the case of Adam Schiff’s erstwhile sister, the grain of truth is that George Soros’ son Robert DID marry a woman named Melissa Schiff in 1992. We know this because, as many right wing blogs have pointed out, their wedding announcement made the New York Times.
But it’s in the proof of Schiff’s sister’s wedding that the entire conspiracy theory falls apart. The Times lists Melissa Schiff’s parents as “Marlene S. Schiff of New York and the late Dr. Haskel Schiff … her father was a renal specialist at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Her mother is the chairwoman of the advisory board of the entrepreneurial center at the Wharton School.”
Meanwhile, Congressman Schiff’s parents are Edward and Sherrill Ann (Glovsky) Schiff. Edward Schiff was a salesman who moved his family around, eventually settling in California and buying a lumber yard. He has one brother, Daniel.
Congressman Schiff’s father could have been surgeon Haskel Schiff, or lumber salesman Edward Schiff. But he couldn’t have been both. And just for the sake of completeness, Snopes reached out to Schiff’s office and confirmed that Melissa is not his sister, and that as far as the Congressman knows, the two aren’t related.
Beyond that, almost nothing links George Soros and Adam Schiff, other than a shared affinity for similar causes.
MoveOn.org, which Soros was a major donor to, made a large donation to Schiff’s initial House campaign in 2000, though Soros isn’t behind any recent major campaign contribution to Schiff.
Schiff was also the winner of one of 48 fellowships in 1997 from the Council of State Governments, a nonprofit founded in 1933 to facilitate cooperation between the various branches of state legislatures around the country. Soros’ Open Society Foundation appears to have given a one-time gift to the CSG in 2003 – years after Schiff won the fellowship, an award that thousands of people have also won over the years.
As connections go, this is incredibly thin gruel.
But this is also likely to be just one of an increasing number of conspiracies, smears, and outright lies about Schiff. If Democrats re-take the House in November, Schiff would almost certainly become Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and as such, gain the power to hold hearings and subpoena documents – including the Holy Grail of RussiaGate, President Trump’s tax returns.
He could jumpstart an investigation hindered by Republican interference and the pathological obstruction committed by his own Committee’s chair, Devin Nunes.
So with 2018 threatening to be a bloodbath for Republicans, get used to them stepping up the assault on Schiff. He’s likely going to have great power to determine the course of the Russia investigation, and he’s just as likely to use it.
His non-existent sister will have no comment.