Jan 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Epoch Times revenue soared on Trump conspiracies

A vendor is seen distributing copies of the Epoch Times newspaper on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

A vendor distributes copies of The Epoch Times at a pro-Trump rally in December. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The publisher of The Epoch Times, a stridently pro-Trump publication with a flair for conspiracy theories and links to Chinese dissidents, nearly quadrupled its revenue during the first three years of the administration.

Why it matters: The nonprofit Epoch Times Association’s 2019 revenue of $15.5 million, up from $3.9 million in 2016, shows how lucrative news coverage catering to the president's most fervent supporters could be — and will likely remain even after he leaves office.

  • Founded in 2000, The Epoch Times has ties to members of the Falun Gong, a Chinese religious movement that's been persecuted by the country’s ruling Communist Party.
  • In its annual tax filings with the IRS, the Epoch Times Association says its “purposes are inspired by the founders’ personal experiences in Communist China and their efforts to bring honest, uncensored news despite oppression and violence.”

The big picture: The Epoch Times has doggedly written stories indulging some of the most popular conspiracy theories floated by President Trump and his most ardent supporters.

  • The paper devoted whole sections to “Spygate,” the term it used to describe a sweeping conspiracy to undermine Trump through investigations into Russian election meddling.
  • Congressional Republicans cited Epoch Times coverage in defending against impeachment charges brought against the president in late 2019.
  • More recently, the paper has floated baseless allegations that the Chinese government manipulated votes in the 2020 election to the benefit of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Epoch Times Association's 2019 finances point to a reader base that grew rapidly during Trump's presidency. While the group accepts tax-deductible contributions, the vast majority of its revenue in 2019 came from subscriptions and ad sales.

  • The group reported $7 million in subscription revenue, $2.7 million in advertising income and $3.7 million itemized as “web and media income.”
  • 21 donors gave the group from $9,000 to $54,000 each. The identities of the donors are redacted in the copy of the tax filing provided by its attorney today.

Flashback: In 2019, Facebook removed hundreds of accounts affiliated with The Epoch Times and barred the organization from advertising on the platform over multiple violations of its ad policies.

  • Those accounts had purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars in Facebook ads targeting Trump supporters with subscription offers.
Go deeper