The case of defunct cryptocurrency exchange FTX and now-broke multibillionaire founder Sam Bankman-Fried is among the most intriguing stories of alleged financial crime in decades, rivaling the heists executed by financier Bernie Madoff and startup darling Elizabeth Holmes. Yet even as institutional investors, celebrity brand ambassadors, and thousands of retail users appear poised to lose untold billions with the bankrupt enterprise, a number of media outlets have handled the digital asset wunderkind with kid gloves.
Bankman-Fried, the son of two Stanford Law professors with deep-seated connections to the Democratic Party, emerged as an overnight success three years ago. However, the nascent Bahamas-based cryptocurrency fiefdom collapsed like a house of cards once users learned that trading firm Alameda Research, a company run by former Bankman-Fried love interest Caroline Ellison, had allegedly transferred consumer holdings from FTX to make investments.
A self-described “effective altruist,” Bankman-Fried donated millions of dollars to advance what he sees as the common good: supporting Democratic candidates and facilitating cryptocurrency transfers to the National Bank of Ukraine. When the world discovered that Bankman-Fried was only generous with other people’s money, he willingly admitted that the Robin Hood charade was a ploy to earn the trust of “woke westerners.”
Several left-leaning media outlets seem to have missed the memo. In the days after the Bankman-Fried affair, which the attorney who once oversaw the fallout from Enron described as the worst case of corporate malfeasance he has ever witnessed, The New York Times posited that the likely fraudster merely had “ambitions” that “exceeded his grasp.” Forbes published a glowing profile of Ellison as a “math whiz” Harry Potter nerd rather than a probable co-conspirator. The Washington Post mourned that Bankman-Fried could no longer pour millions into “pandemic prevention.”
While some outlets remain entranced by the alleged cryptocurrency con man, others were even the direct financial beneficiaries of his “effective altruism.” Indeed, the millennial spent millions capturing the allegiance of those who control the airwaves through a nonprofit organization called Building a Stronger Future, which he ran with the help of his brother, Gabe Bankman-Fried, a former Democratic congressional staffer and the director of Guarding Against Pandemics.
ProPublica, an independent nonprofit newsroom that wishes to “expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust,” accepted a $5 million donation from Bankman-Fried earlier this year to fund the investigation of issues such as biosecurity, public health preparedness, and COVID-19. A spokesperson from ProPublica told The Daily Wire that the outlet received one-third of the donation in February, while the next two installments are “on hold at this time.”
The Intercept, which claims to be “dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism,” was approached by Bankman-Fried earlier this year with a $4 million grant meant to buoy the outlet’s reporting on “biosafety and pandemic prevention.” The company received $500,000 in September and has been “advised that the grant is now on hold,” according to a statement provided to The Daily Wire by a spokesperson from The Intercept, which disclosed the support in subsequent articles about the possible financial criminal’s political connections.
Vox, the outlet which easily persuaded Bankman-Fried to admit that his benevolence was a ruse, received a grant from the philanthropist for the Future Perfect initiative, under which writers “carve out a space, away from the regular news cycle, to cover and think about crucially important issues that are currently undercovered.” Bankman-Fried was prepared to fund “a project on technological and innovation bottlenecks that hamper human progress.” The grant was awarded in August, but the program is now on pause, a spokesperson for Vox confirmed with The Daily Wire. Vox has likewise disclosed the connection in reporting on FTX.
Vox, ProPublica, and The Intercept all declined to comment when pressed by The Daily Wire if they would commit to returning or otherwise dispensing the contributions they have already received from Bankman-Fried. Spokespeople for Forbes, The New York Times, and The Washington Post confirmed that their outlets did not receive contributions from Bankman-Fried or Building a Stronger Future.
The collapse of FTX will surely remain in the national conversation throughout the coming months as the House Financial Services Committee prepares to host a hearing on the defunct cryptocurrency platform. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are likewise preparing investigations into the Bankman-Fried empire.
As lawmakers and regulators attempt to make heads and tails of the digital coin company, it is uncertain whether media companies are prepared to do the same.