The claim: Luxury home purchases linked to Black Lives Matter role for organization co-founder
Real estate purchased by a co-founder of Black Lives Matter was put under the spotlight this month after the New York Post reported on what it called a “buying spree” Patrisse Khan-Cullors started in 2016.
Social media users seized on the report as an indication that Khan-Cullors was being enriched by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Unbelievable. Big pay day coming soon after the (Derek) Chauvin trial,” said one Facebook post from April 11.
That text accompanied a picture of Khan-Cullors holding up her right fist, and the text “Black Lives Matter co-founder Khan-Cullors reportedly bought four luxury homes.” The post generated hundreds of shares and comments, including from users who suggested that Khan-Cullors was profiting from donations to Black Lives Matter.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation had taken in about $90 million in 2020, when racial unrest exploded nationwide after the killing by police of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, according to the Associated Press.
But there is no evidence to support the idea that Khan-Cullors used donations that poured in amid nationwide protests in 2020 to bankroll the purchase of four homes.
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The account that shared the Facebook post did not respond to a request for comment.
Real estate purchased
The New York Post reported that Khan-Cullors has purchased four properties in recent years, though two came before 2020 brought a swell of attention and donations to Black Lives Matter. Three of those properties were in the Los Angeles area, and one was in suburban Atlanta, according to the Post.
One of the Los Angeles properties cost $510,000 when Khan-Cullors purchased it in 2016. A second Los Angeles home ran her $590,000 in 2018, the Post reported. A suburban Atlanta property was purchased for $415,000 in 2020.
Public records searches by USA TODAY found Khan-Cullors linked to all three of those properties.
The New York Post story links back to the real estate blog Dirt for information about the purchase of a fourth property. The blog reported that Khan-Cullors purchased the home in Los Angeles’ Topanga Canyon for $1.4 million on March 30 through a limited liability company.
USA TODAY was unable to verify the Topanga Canyon property purchase.
Were purchases connected to BLM?
The core question here is whether Khan-Cullors’ purchases are linked to her BLM role, as the post implies.
For this claim, as any other we fact check, the burden of proof is on the speaker. The post provided no proof of such a connection, the author did not respond to provide any and we found none in our research, though documents are limited given the nature of the organization and Khan-Cullors’ employment history.
The New York Post report, which cited the real estate blog Dirt, touched off a cascade of criticism about the real estate purchases, including from the conservative nonprofit National Legal and Policy Center.
National Legal and Policy Center Chairman Peter Flaherty said in a prepared statement provided to USA TODAY that “donors to any nonprofit group should know how the organization spends its funds” and pointed out that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has not filed public IRS disclosures.
The foundation received its official non-profit designation from the Internal Revenue Service in December, according to the Associated Press, and will be required to file public tax documents in the future. No public financial filings have yet been made.
Khan-Cullors said there’s no connection between the home purchases and her BLM role.
“To be abundantly clear, as a registered 501c3, BLMGNF cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of my personal property,” Khan-Cullors said in a prepared statement . “Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”
In a cease-and-desist letter responding to a press release from the policy center, the BLM foundation responded to demand the National Legal and Policy Center remove the “insinuation” that “funds from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s funds have been used, directly or indirectly, to purchase real estate.”
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Khan-Cullors said in a prepared statement she has been paid a total of $120,000 from the organization since 2013 for acting as spokesperson and “political education work,” but she has not been paid since 2019.
Khan-Cullors pointed out the myriad jobs she has held. She has two book deals, including authorship of a New York Times best-selling memoir. The Los Angeles Times reported last year Khan-Cullors signed a production deal with Warner Brothers “to develop scripted dramas and comedies, docuseries and animated programming for children, young adults and families.”
Khan-Cullors also noted that she is a public speaker, owns a gallery, has a deal with YouTube and teaches at a private liberal arts college in Arizona.
Our rating: Missing context
The claim that Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors bought four luxury homes is MISSING CONTEXT, because without additional information it could be misleading. While some social media users suggested that the purchases were evidence that Khan-Cullors had been enriched by the movement, our research revealed no evidence that Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation funds were used to purchase property. Khan-Cullors has held several other jobs in addition to her work as the organization’s volunteer executive director, including writing a memoir and developing content for Warner Brothers.
Our fact-check sources:
The Associated Press, Feb. 23, AP Exclusive: Black Lives Matter opens up about its finances
Instagram, April 14, Patrisse Khan-Cullors post
National Legal and Policy Center, April 10, Black Lives Matter Founder Patrisse Cullors Owns Expensive Real Estate
The New York Post, April 10, Inside BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ million-dollar real estate buying binge
Patrisse Collors website, accessed April 19, About Patrisse Cullors
The Los Angeles Times, Oct. 15, 2020, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors lands Warner Bros. TV production deal
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Misleading claim about BLM co-founder’s real estate