‘Squad’ defender of alleged Chinese spy app tied to nonprofit that received $150K from its parent company
Rep. Jamaal Bowman has recently positioned himself as one of the most ardent defenders of TikTok, which critics have alleged is a Chinese spyware app. The New York Democrat, meanwhile, is tied to a foundation that received a $150,000 donation from TikTok’s parent company late last year.
Bowman, an avid TikTok user, held a Wednesday press conference on Capitol Hill defending the popular social media app alongside two other Democratic lawmakers and so-called TikTok influencers.
During the presser, the “Squad” member claimed that politicians are hypocrites for singling out the app when its American-owned counterparts have allowed Russia, for example, “to interfere with our 2016 election” and have “allowed lies and misinformation to live on their platforms.”
Bowman further suggested that TikTok’s opposition stems from racism. “Let’s not have a dishonest conversation,” he said. “Let’s not be racist towards China and express our xenophobia when it comes to TikTok, because American companies have done tremendous harm to American people.”
Bowman is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose affiliated nonprofit, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, in December received a $150,000 donation from ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. The donation went towards honoring members of the caucus.
ByteDance also funneled a $150,000 donation that same month to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, a nonprofit affiliated with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The donation also honored members of its respective congressional caucus.
A member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, California Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia, joined Bowman at the TikTok press conference to oppose a ban on the app. Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan was also in attendance.
ByteDance moved the money while facing national security concerns and ban threats in the United States. Critics argue that the Chinese government could access user data, such as browsing history and location, and push communist propaganda through the app. The donations also occurred as the company and its subsidiaries spent $5.4 million on lobbying activities in the U.S., its highest yearly amount yet.
ByteDance’s donations to the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute were its largest reported in lobbying filings last year. Reps. Bowman and Garcia’s offices did not respond to a Fox News Digital inquiry by the time of publication. ByteDance did not respond to a previous request for comment on its contributions to the nonprofits.
Fears surrounding the popular social media site grew following a report last year that showed a TikTok team in China accessed data of U.S. TikTok users, including two journalists. ByteDance fired four employees over the matter.
“The evidence that China is using TikTok to spy on and influence American citizens is clear, and it only keeps mounting as time goes on,” Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote in a Fox News Digital op-ed.
“Moreover, Beijing’s influence on ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is undeniable. Not only does Chinese law compel ByteDance to hand over data at a moment’s notice, but the Chinese government also holds an ownership stake in the tech giant’s key domestic subsidiary.”
On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. During the hearing, Republican Florida Rep. Neal Dunn asked whether ByteDance had ever spied on American citizens.
“I don’t think that spying is the right way to describe it,” Zi responded.