Middletown -- The Epoch Times, a right-wing newspaper and website that started out as a critic of China's Communist rulers, has bought a three-story office building on Fulton Street, with unknown plans for its future.
The building was occupied for decades by various government agencies that rented space there, including a state unemployment office and an Orange County social services outpost.
Property records show The Epoch Times Association bought it for $1.5 million on Aug. 16 from Pyramid Construction, a Ramsey, New Jersey, company.
The Epoch Times, which has offices on 28th Street in Manhattan, didn't respond to requests by email and phone to discuss its plans.
It was unclear if the newspaper also had bought the Times Herald-Record's former printing plant off Ballard Road in the town of Wallkill. Property records indicate that a newly formed entity called Zheng Jian LLC bought the 75,780-square-foot building last October for $2.7 million.
Zheng Jian LLC listed as its address a two-bedroom house in Middletown. The couple who bought that house in 2018 couldn't be reached on Wednesday.
The Epoch Times was founded in the U.S. in 2000 by members of the Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual group that was persecuted and expelled from China by the government. The Falun Gong has a 427-acre compound called Dragon Springs about 25 minutes west of Middletown in the town of Deerpark. Dragon Springs is home to the Shen Yun performing arts troupe, which is heavily promoted on the Epoch Times website.
The Falun Gong also operates a performing arts school at Dragon Springs and the Fei Tian College on the campus of the former Middletown Psychiatric Center, less than two miles from the office building that the Epoch Times bought.
The Epoch Times describes itself as nonpartisan, guided by "truth and tradition," and "the fastest-growing independent news media in America." Its home page on Wednesday tilted well to the right, featuring critical stories about the COVID vaccine and mask mandates and a barrage of conservative columns ("Is My Alma Mater a Communist Training Camp?"). It also promoted an Epoch TV series called "The Dark Origins of Communism."
The paper touted itself in YouTube ads last year as a media alternative that lashes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama instead of Donald Trump, and that exposes the perils of communism and socialism and misdeeds of the Chinese government.
A New York Times investigation last year found that the Epoch Times had built an influential media empire by embracing Trump, pushing conspiracy theories and using feel-good videos on Facebook to lure readers to its site.
The Epoch Times responded by calling the Times piece an attack on its journalism and the religious beliefs of its founders. It also claimed the story had boosted its subscriptions.
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