Frank Gaffney Jr.
Once a respectable Washington insider, Frank Gaffney Jr. is now one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.
About Frank Gaffney Jr.
Gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, Gaffney claims that “creeping Sharia,” or Islamic religious law, is a dire threat to American democracy. In 1988, he founded the neoconservative turned anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy. He favors congressional hearings to unmask subversive Muslim conspiracies and was even once banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) after accusing two of its organizers of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In His Own Words:
“One of threats to our country, which we have not been paying much attention to of late as we should and as we have in the past, is that emanating from what I think of as Sharia supremacists. That’s to say people who embrace a foundational doctrine of Islam and abide by its injunction that to be faithful Muslims they must engage in jihad.”
– “Securing America TV” segment, Oct. 25, 2022.
“Islam’s totalitarian Sharia code is wholly incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, which elected officials swear an oath to uphold and defend. Voters are entitled to know how candidates will fulfill that duty when it conflicts with their own, or their supporters’, attachment to Sharia.”
– “Secure Freedom Minute” radio feature, Sept. 7, 2018
“That’s civilization jihad. That’s finding ways to use our institutions – to use our government as well – to destroy us from within.”
– Interview on Rick Joyner’s “Prophetic Perspective on Current Events,” June 2012
“We’re witnessing not just the violent kind of jihad that these Islamists believe God compels them to engage in, but also, where they must for tactical reasons, a more stealthy kind, or civilizational jihad as the Muslim Brotherhood calls it. We’re witnessing that playing out, not only in places in the Middle East but also in Europe, in Australia, in Canada and here in the United States as well.”
– Newsmax interview, October 2011
“We know for a fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has as its mission the worldwide imposition of Islam’s toxic, brutally repressive and anti-constitutional supremacist doctrine known as Shariah. And yes, it means here, too.”
– Column at FamilySecurityMatters.org, August 2013
“So pervasive now is the MB’s [Muslim Brotherhood’s] ‘civilization jihad’ within the U.S. government and civil institutions that a serious, sustained and rigorous investigation of the phenomenon by the legislative branch is in order. To that end, we need to establish a new and improved counterpart to the Cold War-era’s HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] and charge it with examining and rooting out anti-American – and anti-constitutional – activities that constitute an even more insidious peril than those pursued by communist Fifth Columnists fifty years ago.”
– Column at Center for Security Policy website, October 2011
“With Mr. Obama’s unbelievably ballyhooed address in Cairo Thursday to what he calls ‘the Muslim world’ (hereafter known as ‘the Speech’), there is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.”
– Column in The Washington Times, June 2009.
If Frank Gaffney Jr. had his way, average hard-working Americans of the Muslim faith would be dragged before Congress to face such questions as, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood?” In Gaffney’s mind, America is in peril, and bringing back the notorious Cold War-era House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) would expose the subversives he imagines are working to implement Sharia religious law throughout the land.
Gaffney’s wild-eyed accusations would certainly fit right into the red-baiting HUAC tradition, judging from his long history of smears and innuendo aimed at Muslims. There was his groundless 2011 claim that Huma Abedin – aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – was part of a “Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy.” That charge was subsequently trumpeted by then-Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., prompting even conservative stalwarts such as the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to condemn it.
In a 2017 feature, The New York Times wrote that by Gaffney’s account, “Potential enemies are hidden in plain sight – praying in mosques, recruiting at Muslim student associations and organizing through mainstream Muslim rights groups – and are engaged in ‘this stealthy, subversive kind of jihad.”
“They essentially, like termites, hollow out the structure of the civil society and other institutions,” Gaffney told the Times, “for the purpose of creating conditions under which the jihad will succeed.”
This even appears to extend to factions of the conservative movement. In 2011, Gaffney claimed two board members of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) were secretly aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, proving that even potential right-wing allies are not safe from his vitriol. Gaffney’s evidence was predictably flimsy – board member and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist’s wife is Palestinian-American, while board member Suhail Khan is a Muslim. Both were political appointees in the George W. Bush administration with long experience in conservative Republican Party affairs. Calling the accusations reprehensible, CPAC organizers banned Gaffney from the event.
In 2013, the inflammatory right-wing site Breitbart News – led by Stephen Bannon – hosted the “Uninvited,” a series of panels in the same hotel as CPAC 2013. Those panels featured several anti-Muslim talking heads including Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Gaffney himself. The panel was kicked off by then-Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a noted friend of the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim movements. In 2014, Breitbart organized a full-blown conference, “The Uninvited II: National Security Action Summit,” where Gaffney served as a moderator. The Summit took place at a hotel down the street from the 2014 CPAC conference in Washington, D.C., and featured anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant speakers as well as politicians, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., speaking on panels with such titles as “Amnesty and Open Borders: The End of America – and the GOP,” and “Benghazigate: The Ugly Truth and the Cover-up.”
CPAC’s organizers later reneged and allowed Gaffney back in 2016. That year, Gaffney moderated a panel at CPAC titled “The Global Jihad Movement in America and the Counterjihad Campaign” featuring European anti-Islam commentators Paul Weston and Lars Hedegaard.
Among the “enablers” of civilization jihad in America, former President Obama was near the top of Gaffney’s list. But Gaffney tried –— and failed – to gather support for baseless suggestions that Obama is a practicing Muslim, or for the accusations he leveled in a series of Washington Times articles in 2009 that the Obama administration was adopting the Muslim Brotherhood’s Middle East plan.
“What if it turns out that some of the people the Obama administration has been embracing are actually promoting the same totalitarian ideology and seditious agenda as al Qaeda, only they’re doing it from White House Iftar dinners?” he asked in The Washington Times, referring to the meal served after Ramadan fasts.
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” in 2009, Gaffney made a statement that boggled even veteran Gaffney-watchers: “There is also circumstantial evidence, not proven by any means, but nonetheless some pretty compelling circumstantial evidence, of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq being involved with the people who perpetrated both the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and even the Oklahoma City bombing.”
But Gaffney wasn’t always such a fringe character. As recently as 2002, a prominent British newspaper listed him with Iraq invasion cheerleaders Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle as one of the men “directing” then-President George W. Bush’s post 9/11 security doctrine.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gaffney graduated from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1975, and subsequently received a graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. After serving as an aide to the late Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, D-Wash., in the 1970s, in 1983 Gaffney was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy. In 1987, he was nominated for an Assistant Secretary of Defense post, but the Senate did not confirm him. In 1988, he founded the Center for Security Policy, a hawkish but initially respectable think tank.
Sometime after that, he seemed to go off the rails, becoming increasingly taken with a conspiracy theory about the infiltration of the United States by nefarious Muslim Brotherhood operatives burrowed deep within the infrastructure. This line – amplified via Gaffney’s radio show, his contributions to numerous far-right periodicals, and the Center for Security Policy website – quickly elevated his stature in hard-line anti-Muslim circles.
Worse, some politicians bought into his beliefs – notably former Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.) who appeared on Gaffney’s radio program and publicly repeated his baseless statistics and “facts,” and who, in 2011, held his own HUAC-style hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. Another congressional acolyte of Gaffney’s theories was former Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn..
Gaffney’s supporters conveniently overlook the fact that many of his theories are based on a single, discredited source – a 1991 fantasy written by a lone Muslim Brotherhood member that was introduced into evidence during the 2008 Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas federal court. But to Gaffney, this document is a smoking gun, a mission statement pointing to a massive Islamist conspiracy under our noses.
“When it is impracticable to engage in violence, Shariah-adherent Muslims are still obliged to engage in jihad through stealthy techniques or, in the words of the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘civilization jihad,’” Gaffney said in 2011. “They are doing it through influence operations, the target set of which is comprehensive –— government, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, the military, penal institutions, media think tanks, political entities, academic institutions. And they are very aggressively targeting non-Muslim religious communities in the name of ecumenicalism.”
To reinforce Gaffney’s delusions, the Center for Security Policy issues alarming “investigative” reports. One of the latest is a 10-part video course hosted by Gaffney titled “The Muslim Brotherhood in America,” which concludes: “America faces in addition to the threat of violent jihad another, even more toxic danger –— a stealthy and pre-violent form of warfare aimed at destroying our constitutional form of democratic government and free society. The Muslim Brotherhood is the prime-mover behind this seditious campaign, which it calls ‘civilization jihad.’”
The Center for Security Policy also distributes what it calls “Occasional Papers,” which offer a revealing window into the breadth of Gaffney’s obsessions. In one of these reports, Gaffney leveled his infamous charges against Huma Abedin, the Hillary Clinton aide. Another paper, titled “Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases,” purports to prove “that Shariah law has entered into state court decisions, in conflict with the Constitution and state public policy,” using a small sample of published cases as evidence.
In 2009, another dubious Center for Security Policy report alleged that an “Iran lobby” operating in Washington, D.C., was influencing U.S. policy through a network of shady operatives and prominent politicos. The report said that “in one way or another” U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and Dennis Ross, then the special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were among those associated with the Iran lobby. In fact, the Iran lobby was a fabrication.
That was Gaffney’s second attempt to create a Muslim lobbying scandal. Back in 2002, he claimed that the so-called “Wahhabi lobby” was contributing heavily to U.S. political campaigns to gain influence over policy. This theory, too, generated a lot of smoke (and a congressional hearing) but, ultimately, no fire.
Gaffney’s scurrilous broad-brush tactics had a serious effect on the lives of all Muslims in America, from students and housewives to corporate executives and budding politicians. A shadow of unfounded suspicion followed even the most upright Muslim citizens, growing cumulatively each time Gaffney fed “intelligence” to such congressional allies as former Reps. Bachmann and Peter King.
In 2012, Salon.com’s Alex Seitz-Wald interviewed one such victim of Gaffney’s Muslim-baiting, Salil Gill. A former member of the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, a legal branch of the military, and Bush White House official, Gill was blindsided soon after he joined the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2004. The problems started when DHS officials questioned him regarding a former American Muslim Council member who was convicted of money laundering. After the inquiry, Gill was cleared, and went back to work.
“His real problem, it turned out, was not anti-terror officials but the vigilantes,” Seitz-Wald reported. “Building on a report (from former Salon writer Mary Jacoby) that Gill had ‘failed to disclose’ his work for the American Muslim Council on security clearance forms, the man behind [Rep. Michele] Bachmann’s witch hunt got involved. ‘Frank Gaffney took the ball and ran with it,’” Gill said.
A Fox News firestorm followed, and damaging letters were written by then-Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa,) demanding that Gill be investigated. In the end, it all amounted to nothing, and the DHS completely cleared Gill of the failure-to-disclose flap, saying in a statement, “Following a thorough investigation, we found that Mr. Gill exceeded all requirements.”
But that didn’t stop Gaffney and his allies from continuing to beat the drum, hounding Gill from his position despite support from the White House and then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. The false accusations still complicate Gill’s life, as he told Wald: “Whenever I go try to do something else, this is the first thing that is asked,” Gill said. “Everybody Googles nowadays, and this is what happens when you Google me.”
In 2007, Gaffney got into the movie business, which did not turn out the way he planned. The project was a “documentary” called “Islam vs. Islamism” produced by ABG Films with Gaffney as co-executive producer. A controversial examination of how radical Islamists are allegedly intimidating their fellow Muslims, the film was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the PBS series “America at a Crossroads.” It was expected to air on 300-plus PBS stations nationwide – until PBS executives saw a screening. They promptly rejected the film on the grounds that it did not meet editorial standards, reportedly using such words as “alarmist” and “overreaching.” After an ugly feud between ABG Films and PBS, eight House members demanded that CPB get the film aired or release it to another network.
The film finally aired after a deal was brokered with Oregon Public Broadcasting acting as distributor for other PBS stations, packaged with an on-camera host introduction and an in-studio panel discussion.
With an eye on the 2016 election, Gaffney organized three National Security Action Summits in 2015 in early Caucus states including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Several GOP candidates joined the cast of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant characters at these Summits, including Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
Gaffney again teamed up with Cruz and Trump following the announcement of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump and Cruz held an anti-Iran rally in Washington, D.C., on September 9, 2015, which was co-sponsored by Center for Security Policy. Brigitte Gabriel, head of ACT for America, the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the country, also spoke at the rally.
Most of Gaffney’s efforts in 2015 were devoted to creating a climate of fear around Syrian refugees entering the U. S. The Center for Security Policy put out a survey asking to “collect contact and geographical data from those who wish to stay engaged” in “refugee resettlement action” – meaning working to prevent the relocation of refuges to a certain locale. Gaffney has also taken Ann Corcoran, the face of the anti-refugee movement in America, under his wing. Corcoran also promotes “refugee resettlement action” that she calls “pockets of resistance.” In April 2015, Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy published a pamphlet by Corcoran titled “Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America.” In it, she calls for Americans to oppose the opening of mosques in their neighborhoods and calls for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S. Corcoran spoke at Gaffney’s National Security Action Summit in South Carolina and Iowa the same year. Also that year, Center for Security Policy worked on creating model legislation at the county level that would ban all Syrian refugee relocation to particular counties if passed.
Gaffney’s campaign against Syrian refugees has prompted him to seek out more radical allies. In September 2015, Gaffney invited white nationalist Jared Taylor on his radio show to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis. Taylor is one of the most outspoken white nationalists in America today. Following the murder of nine African Americans in Charleston that year, Taylor was appointed spokesperson by the white nationalist group Council of Conservative Citizens, the group alleged perpetrator Dylann Roof cited as his gateway into white nationalism. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Taylor wrote, “When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western Civilization – any kind of civilization – disappears.” During the interview, Gaffney called Taylor’s American Renaissance website “wonderful,” and asked, “Is it the death of Europe what we’re seeing at the moment in terms of this migration, this invasion?” After several watchdog groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about Taylor’s appearance on Secure Freedom Radio, Gaffney backtracked, attempted to bury the evidence by scrubbing the Taylor interview from his site, and claimed he was “unfamiliar” with Taylor’s views before inviting him on.
In 2018, the Center for Security Policy issued a press release announcing Gaffney would be stepping down as the group’s president and moving into an executive chairman role. He was replaced by former Center for Security Policy staffer turned National Security Council chief of staff Fred Fleitz (Fleitz later stepped down as the Center’s president in 2021). No longer running the day-to-day operations of the group, Gaffney has turned most of his attention to hosting his “Secure Freedom Radio” and “Securing America TV,” both of which are still listed as products of Center for Security Policy.
Gaffney continues to host anti-Muslim figures like Robert Spencer. On top of running the anti-Muslim hate group Jihad Watch, Spencer is also a senior fellow at Center for Security Policy. He is a frequent guest on Gaffney’s programs, where they swap anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, including paranoid ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating the U.S. During an episode in September 2022, Gaffney told Spencer how much he values his work at Jihad Watch for exposing stories of “the degree in which we have an organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood, an international project for realizing the goal of Sharia, the Islamic doctrine that is supposed to be followed by all faithful Muslims ... of pursuing jihad.”
Gaffney provides a platform to fellow travelers in the anti-Muslim movement such as David Yerushalmi, John Guandolo and David Horowitz. In October 2022, Gaffney hosted Raymond Ibrahim, a contributor to the Islamophobic publication FrontPage Magazine. During the show, Gaffney said he and his guest would be discussing the “threat from Sharia supremacism,” adding, “That’s to say people who embrace a foundational doctrine of Islam and abide by its injunction that to be faithful Muslims they must engage in jihad.” Gaffney said Ibrahim is versed in “Islam, its history, [and] the violence it has unleashed on the world for 14 centuries or so.”