Tim Ballard Has 'Stepped Away' From Operation Underground Railroad, Org Says - 2023-07-13
Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, has quietly parted ways with the controversial anti-trafficking group. The news comes as Sound of Freedom, a heavily fictionalized depiction of Ballard's work for a division of ICE and his early career as a private anti-trafficking operator, continues to draw at the box office. The movie has brought in just under $50 million, largely on the strength of a marketing campaign encouraging religious audiences to not only attend the movie but "pay it forward" by buying tickets for other people, bringing unprecedented attention to both Ballard and OUR.
In recent days, sources with knowledge of OUR began to tell Motherboard that Ballard had left the organization. By one account, he'd gone to donors in a state of upset, saying that he'd been forced out and asking for their help with a new organization. Another person who's worked with the group said that to the best of their knowledge, he was no longer with OUR and was focusing on his work with the Nazarene Fund, a Glenn Beck-backed organization that has focused on religious minorities in the Middle East but has more recently operated in Afghanistan and Ukraine. A third person familiar with OUR fundraising said that they had heard just this week that Ballard had broken with the organization.
In a statement, an OUR spokesperson said, "Founder, Tim Ballard has recently stepped away from Operation Underground Railroad prior to launch of the film, 'Sound of Freedom.'" They added, "Matt Osborne continues to serve as the President and COO of the organization." On LinkedIn, Osborne is listed as having served as the president and COO since February 2023, six months ago.