David Horowitz

Despite Horowitz being a founding intellectual member of the New Left in the 1960s, and an advocate for civil rights and equality, he has since the late 1980s become a driving force of the anti-Muslimanti-immigrant and anti-black movements.

About David Horowitz

In 1988, David Horowitz founded the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles to “establish a conservative presence in Hollywood and show how popular culture had become a political battleground.” In 2006, the center was rebranded the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC) and turned its focus toward “the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values.”

Under Horowitz's direction, the Freedom Center has launched a network of projects giving anti-Muslim voices and radical ideologies a platform to project hate and misinformation. Funding these figures and ideas fits into Horowitz's multi-front information war against the political left, which he claims has a stranglehold on mainstream culture. A fellow conservative has called him “something of a Stalinist,” and his FrontPage magazine ironically carries the tagline “Inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out.” Horowitz took to far-right politics after participating in the radical left politics of the 1960s.

Key takeaways

  • The DHFC serves as a think tank housing various projects and publications designed to fight Horowitz’s self-described ideological war with Islam and the political left.
  • The group has become a premier sponsor of conferences and seminars. These events range from single day presentations given by anti-Muslim fear mongers in Horowitz’s network to extravagant weekend getaways that convene government officials with far-right thought leaders and activists.
  • Colleges and universities have been one of the main targets for Horowitz. His group is known for compiling McCarthyite lists of students, professors, and administrators and plastering campuses with posters accusing them of being subversive.

In his own words

“I'm drawing attention to all these neo-Nazi Muslims and leftists because this is the overlooked but real neo-Nazi movement in America. Richard Spencer and his Charlottesville idiots are marginal and have no significant following, unlike SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] and the campus Jew-hating left.”
—Twitter, December 25, 2017

"The faculties of our liberal arts schools in America and in England are dominated by communists and pro-terrorists. And that may sound extreme, but it's actually not."
—Interview with J-TV, May 16, 2017

“The difference between Islamic fanatics, or Jew haters, and Hitler is that Hitler hid the Final Solution, and the Iranians and Hezbollah shout it from the rooftops. And the whole Muslim world accepts it.”
—Speech at the University of Southern California, March 23, 2016

“He’s [President Obama] an evil man, in that sense, yes. He is destroying our borders. He will send emissaries to Ferguson for a street thug who got himself killed attempting to disarm a police officer, resisting arrest. But when a beautiful young woman who happens to be white, and is a good Samaritan, when she is murdered by someone that he is chiefly responsible for getting into this country, he won’t even pick up the phone to call her parents. He is systematically destroying America.”
—Fox News, August 4, 2015

“Obama is an anti-American radical and I’m actually sure he’s a Muslim, he certainly isn’t a Christian. He’s a pretend Christian in the same way he’s a pretend American. It really is disgraceful. He’s inviting the terrorists to behead more Americans when he should be attacking them with our military. His whole agenda in office has been to defeat America, he lost the war in Iraq deliberately, he created a vacuum which ISIS has filled.”
—Interview on “Today’s Issues,” August 21, 2014

“[The Boston bombers] hated us because they were fanatical believers in the idea that Mohammed had desired them to kill infidels and purify the earth for Allah. This is the face of our enemy and the sooner the delusional liberals among us wake up to this fact, the safer all of us will be.”
—FrontPage Magazine, April 19, 2013

“The problem is when you have a religion which preaches war and violence and hate, rationality is never gonna take over.”
—Horowitz speech at Brooklyn College March 10, 2011

“Why are 80 of the mosques [in America] filled with hate against Jews and against Americans and Democrats?”
—Horowitz speech at Brooklyn College, March 10, 2011

“The Palestinians are Nazis. Every one of their elected officials are terrorists.”
—Horowitz speech at University of Massachusetts Amherst, February 23, 2010

“If not for the sacrifices of white soldiers and a white American president who gave his life to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks in America would still be slaves … Where is the gratitude of black America and its leaders for those gifts?”
—“Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea — and Racist Too,” FrontPage Magazine, January 3, 2001

“Unfortunately, as a nation we have become so trapped in the melodrama of black victimization and white oppression that we are in danger of losing all sense of proportion. If blacks are oppressed in America, why isn't there a black exodus?”
—“Guns Don’t Kill Black People, Other Blacks Do,” Salon, August 16, 1999

Background

David Horowitz was born on January 10, 1939, in Forest Hills, New York, into a household of schoolteachers and Communist Party USA members. In his 1998 memoir, Radical Son, recounting his life and departure from 1960s member of the New Left, Horowitz describes the political convictions of those around him.

Underneath the ordinary surfaces of their lives, my parents and their friends thought of themselves as secret agents. … Even if we never encountered a Soviet agent or engaged in a single illegal act, each of us knew that our commitment to socialism implied the obligation to commit treason, too.

Horowitz moved to London following the completion of his graduate degree and began work with the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. Established in 1963, the Foundation focused on human rights, social justice and peace with a particular interest in the ending the nuclear arms race. He returned to the United States five years later in 1968, where he took work as co-editor at Ramparts, a magazine associated with the New Left movement of liberal activists seeking to drastically reform the cultural landscape. 

By the 1970s, though, Horowitz had begun working with the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California, and formed a close relationship with the group’s co-founder, Huey P. Newton. Horowitz collected funds for the purchase of a Baptist church that was then converted into a learning center for children of members of the Black Panthers. But the relationship soon soured.

In 1974, Betty Van Patter, Horowitz’s friend and colleague at Ramparts who he brought into the Black Panther movement, was found dead on a San Francisco Bay beach. She had been severely beaten, and Horowitz was convinced members of the Panthers were involved.

Hugh Pearson, author of the Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America, wrote: “Without question, David Horowitz was extremely traumatized by what happened with Betty Van Patter, as I think anyone would be. … As a result, David just totally went berserk with regard to the left-liberal community.”

Van Patten’s death served as a grand catalyst for Horowitz’s quick departure from the radical left he helped found.

Increasingly disillusioned with his political course in life, in the decades that followed Horowitz adopted increasingly right-wing positions on matters of sexual promiscuity in the gay community, LGBT rights, U.S. foreign policy, the question of racial equality and affirmative action. In 1985, he publicly announced that he had voted for Ronald Reagan the year before.

In the essay published in The Washington Post titled “Goodbye to All That.” Horowitz and his writing partner Peter Collier — both luminaries on the Left — came clean. “Casting our ballots for Ronald Reagan was indeed a way of saying goodbye to all that –– to the self-aggrandizing romance with corrupt Third Worldism; to the casual indulgence of Soviet totalitarianism; to the hypocritical mainstream politics,” the pair wrote.

The essay was the beginning of a new course for Horowitz. Three years later, he founded the Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC) in Los Angeles, which sought to “establish a conservative presence in Hollywood and show how popular culture had become a political battleground.” Horowitz spent much of the 1990s securing financing for the CSPC while railing against “political correctness” in American universities.

In 1992, he began publishing the monthly tabloid Heterodoxy, which was “meant to have the feel of a samizdat publication inside the gulag of the PC [politically correct] university.” The tabloid targeted university students who Horowitz viewed as indoctrinated by the entrenched Left in American academia.

Horowitz maintained his assault on the political left. In 2005, the group established “DiscoverTheNetworks,” an “online encyclopedia of the left” and a “comprehensive profile of left-wing organizations and individuals.” Made available on the DHFC web page, the resource strangely cites a number of white nationalist groups, namely the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which served as the primary gateway for Dylann Roof (the Charleston church shooter who murdered nine African Americans on June 17, 2015) into the white supremacy movement, and VDARE, a racist anti-immigrant website.

A prolific writer, Horowitz has published a number of hard-right publications, many offering a glimpse of his political evolution. In a pamphlet titled “Hating Whitey,” he argued that contemporary leaders of the black community had squandered the legacy of the civil rights movement by reframing “the civil rights agenda as a radical cause.” In a book of that same title published in 1999, he made racially charged claims about black-on-white crime, voicing criticisms of affirmative action that would last through the election of President Obama, who he since called a communist with a “curious background.”

Horowitz’s work, specifically his 2006 McCarthyist book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, was criticized by the Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition of 10 influential groups including the American Association of University Professors, in a major study called “Facts Count.” The study’s authors concluded that “Horowitz’s research is sloppy in the extreme” and rife with “inaccuracies, distortions and manipulations of fact.”

A vocal opponent of reparations for slavery, Horowitz also has attacked minority “demands for special treatment” as “only necessary because some blacks can’t seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others.”

“The fact is that it is not tolerable in America to hate blacks, but it is okay in your politically correct culture to hate white people,” states Horowitz in “Hating Whitey.” Horowitz, ever critical of American academia, continues, “Of course, the leftist academy has a ready answer for every question about black racism: Only whites can be racist.”

An ardent supporter of Israel, Horowitz is also highly critical of Palestinians and Muslims and often veers into outright racism. “No people have shown themselves as so morally sick as the Palestinians,” Horowitz once said while speaking at Brooklyn College in 2011. “In the history of all mankind, there was never a people who strapped bombs on their bodies and killed innocent people. No other people has sunk so low as the Palestinians, and everyone is afraid to say it.”

That vitriol directed at Palestinians soon found focus in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as a reason to question Muslims in America — in government, academia and communities across the country. In 2006, the CSPC changed its name to the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC). Soon afterward, Horowitz saw Islamic radicals everywhere. Muslim Student Associations soon became “arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the fountainhead of the terrorist jihad against the West.” He called Hillary Clinton adviser and Muslim, Huma Abedin, a “Muslim Brotherhood operative” who is “worse than Alger Hiss.”

In the hours after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Horowitz published “Horowitz’s Notepad Special: This is War” on the Freedom Center website. He blamed a weak and defenseless United States for the attacks and called for tighter security measures to include racial and ethnic profiling of “potential terrorists—and that does mean Islamic and Palestinian terrorists.” Horowitz also attempted to draw a link between the political left and their “alliances with anti-American radicals at home and abroad,” seeming to place blame for terrorism on the shoulders of the political left.

In 2007, the DHFC launched its provocative “Islamofascism Awareness Week” on at least 100 college campuses across the country. As billed, the events were to alert Americans, particularly students, about the alleged threat posed by Islam. In actuality, the events merely served to create controversy. DHFC sponsored two other “Islamofascism Awareness” weeks in April and October of 2008. The organization has sponsored other events including “Islamic Apartheid Week” in 2012.

In 1988, Horowitz launched FrontPage Mag, an online publication that exists under his DHFC’s umbrella. FrontPage, which is still in operation, has become a platform for publishing a plethora of far-right and anti-Muslim writers and commentators. The DHFC employs a few dedicated writers to produce content on the website, including Daniel Greenfield, a prolific anti-Muslim blogger and writer.

For example, in a 2015 article, Greenfield equated efforts to resettle refugees in the U.S. to an “invasion.”

“America faces battles on many fronts,” he wrote. “The greatest of these is the battle for our identity … The mass migration is not immigration, it is colonization. Its goal is to destroy the American system by destroying the American spirit.”

Some content posted on FrontPage is from guest writers or is republished from other outlets and publications. In 2002, Horowitz used FrontPage to repost an article from the white nationalist publication American Renaissance. Some content was purposefully omitted from the article, which detailed a gruesome murder of four white individuals by two African American assailants in Wichita, Kansas, in December 2000. The article, however, merely served to stoke fears and anxieties of black on white crime in America, a common topic among white supremacists and one that Horowitz also hoped to amplify. Horowitz published the article on FrontPage with a disclaimer written by him defending his decision to repost it. In it, he offered a soft critique of longtime white nationalist and American Renaissance founder Jared Taylor, who he called “very smart and gutsy.”

“ ... Taylor and his Renaissance movement,” Horowitz wrote, “are no more racist in this sense than Jesse Jackson and the NAACP.”

Horowitz paints a picture of Muslims, especially Palestinian Muslims, using broad strokes and generalizations to portray them are terrorists and thus enemies of the United States and Israel.

In 2002, Horowitz equated the threat to Israel by some Arab states as being also a threat to America, “Americans must arm themselves for the defense of their country. To be effective, this defense requires America and the democratic West to recognize that the defense of Israel is a defense of their own frontier.” Horowitz is careful to package his anti-Muslim ideology as more palatable pro-Israeli and pro-American sentiment and circulate it to a wider audience without his true intent being questioned too heavily.

With the name change in 2006 and the Freedom Center’s financial backing of Robert Spencer and his hate group, Jihad Watch — which was founded in 2003 and argues that terroristic violence by Muslim extremists are inherent to Islam itself — the DHFC entered a new era of operation.

The wars being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq combined with the various military engagements in the Muslim world provided Horowitz a larger audience for an anti-Muslim message. While still concerned with the infiltration of American society and politics by the Left, there was now a greater target of opportunity for Horowitz and his Freedom Center –– Islam in all forms.

In recent years, Horowitz has become much more vocally concerned with the alleged radical Muslim infiltration of American politics and government, holding lavish affairs in five-star hotels that mix extremist fear mongering with visits from marquee political figures. His annual “Restoration Weekend” and “The Retreat” weekends consist largely of speeches given by notable personalities in the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim circles of the United States, such as Pamela Geller, co-founder of the hate group “Stop Islamization of America.” Prominent past attendees have included Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Louie Gohmert, U.S. Attorney General and former Sen. Jeff Sessions, John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

His associations have long been criticized. A 2011 report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) entitled “Fear, Inc.” cited David Horowitz as a key financier of anti-Muslim organizations, such as Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch, which facilitates highly distorted perceptions of Islam and American Muslims. Horowitz responded to that report by stating CAP had “joined the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In October 2014, Horowitz penned a piece for National Review titled “Thank you, ISIS.” In it, he lauds the terrorist group for supposedly doing what he and his anti-Muslim cohorts have been trying to do for over a decade: present Islam as an evil religion.

“And then came ISIS,” he wrote. “The horrific images of the beheadings, the reports of mass slaughters, and the threats to the American homeland have accomplished what our small contingent of beleaguered conservatives could never have achieved by ourselves.”

Horowitz has never been a single-issue activist. Despite a veritable cornucopia of complaints, concerns and conspiracies, Horowitz always manages to work in at least one of the handful of core beliefs to which he subscribes.

In recent years, Horowitz has also been a vocal critic of Black Lives Matter (BLM) — a movement that began in 2014 after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white police officer. He describes the BLM movement as “a racist hate group founded by a core of radicals who have dedicated themselves to fomenting race conflict and putting bullseyes on the back of our nation’s police officers.”

In July 2016, Horowitz’s FrontPageMag editorial staff published an article calling for the BLM movement to be designated as a terrorist organization after lone wolf gunman Micah Xavier Johnson, who sympathized with ideas associated with black separatist hate groups, ambushed and shot 14 police officers during a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas.

“[BLM] started out as the KKK. Now it’s evolving into Al Qaeda with an ideological core that promotes the idea of a total war while ‘lone wolves’ do its dirty work,” the article reads.

Following the murder of Colleen Hufford and the wounding of Traci Johnson in Oklahoma City by Alton Nolen, an African American and former co-worker of the two victims, Horowitz tweeted: “Our racist president [Barack Obama] can try to tip the scales in Ferguson but in OKC a black beheaded a white and tried to behead another, silence,” Horowitz tweeted Nolen, who had been suspended from his job earlier in the day, returned to work and attacked the two women, one of whom died as a result of her injuries. Neither local nor federal law enforcement officials classified this attack as terrorism, with the local police saying that they had no information that led them to believe the attack was motivated by terrorism or radical Islamic belief.

Along those lines, Horowitz criticized Beyoncé Knowles’ performance during the halftime show of Super Bowl 50 in which she and her backup dancers donned black leather uniforms and berets, claiming Knowles was paying homage to the Black Panthers.

These [the Black Panthers] were the anarchic, murderous barbarians whom Beyoncé chose to honor as voices of ‘justice’ during her insipid Super Bowl halftime performance,” states Horowitz. “It was nothing more, and nothing less, than the grotesque glorification of racism – a politically correct brand.

For nearly three decades, Horowitz and his Freedom Center have been waging a rhetorical assault on the political left and Islam. That mission continued in 2017.

Like past years, the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC) sponsored a handful of events featuring anti-Muslim and far-right figures. In August 2017, Horowitz hosted far-right Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who a year earlier was found guilty of inciting hate speech in the Netherlands. Horowitz also featured anti-Muslim activist Nonie Darwish in April 2017 in Los Angeles as part of his “Wednesday Morning Club” series.

Horowitz’s annual flagship event, the “Restoration Weekend,” took place in November 2017 in Palm Beach, Florida. The event featured former White House advisors Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon.

During his speech, Gorka praised President Trump for calling out “the evil ideology of jihadism.” Bannon was given the group’s “Annie Taylor Award for Courage.” Named after the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive, the annual award is given to conservatives who display courage in Horowitz’s eyes. Horowitz said Bannon received the award for waging a “war” against “the ideology of the progressive left and its Democratic Party.” In addition to other anti-Muslim mainstays like Daniel Pipes, the event featured far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and Gavin McInnes of the chauvinistic Proud Boys.

The DHFC also published a pamphlet authored by Robert Spencer titled “Islamic Anti-Semitism in the United States,” which seeks to further vilify Muslims and downplay the far-right as the main purveyors of antisemitism in the U.S. Similarly, Horowitz’s organization promoted Spencer’s 2017 book, Confessions of an Islamophobe, claiming it spurs on “an honest public debate that weighs criticism of Islam against national security interests and the survival of Western civilization.”

In 2017, the DHFC continued its campaign to target and antagonize universities and colleges across the country. The organization is behind efforts to distribute posters and flyers on campuses attempting to equate student groups — like the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine — to terrorists.

As part of its project to supposedly “stop university support for terrorists,” the DHFC put up posters slandering the aforementioned groups at least 10 different schools across the country, including the University of California-Berkeley, Brandeis University, the University of Chicago and Brooklyn College.

In 2017, the DHFC launched a campaign to take on so-called sanctuary campuses across the country. That is schools that do not report undocumented students to federal authorities. The DHFC claims university administrators have “shown contempt” for federal immigration law by “appeasing radical immigration activists’ demands for sanctuary campuses.” The organization announced it would be teaming up with far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to take on these campuses.

Horowitz and Yiannopoulos intended to kick the campaign off on February 1, 2017, at the University of California, Berkeley. The event was canceled after protests outside the venue turned violent. While the DHFC continues to call on the federal government to withdraw funding from universities and colleges that have declared as “sanctuary campuses.”