About Larry Klayman
Larry Klayman is a pathologically litigious attorney and professional gadfly notorious for suing everyone from Iran’s Supreme Leader to his own mother. He has spent years denouncing Barack Obama as a crypto-Communist Muslim, convening meaningless “citizens grand juries,” and railing against an endless list of enemies.
In His Own Words
“This president is not a president of We the People; he’s a president of his people. … I do not advocate violent revolution; to the contrary … I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to put the Koran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”
—Speech at an October 2013 rally on Capitol Hill during which Klayman called on the assembled crowd to “Occupy Washington”
“I am more than embarrassed and appalled as a Jew to see my own people at the forefront of a number of scandals now perpetrated by the Muslim-in-Chief, Barack Hussein Obama, and his leftist Jewish government comrades and partners in crime.”
—2013 column for WorldNetDaily entitled “Ethical Decline of Liberal Jewish Intelligentsia”
“This country belongs to us, not you. This land is our land! And, we will fight you will [sic] all legal means, including exercising our legitimate Second Amendment rights of self-defense, to end your tyranny and restore freedom to our shores!”
—2014 column for WorldNetDaily, “Mounting Government Tyranny Furthers Revolution,” in which Klayman encouraged armed militiamen to take on “government goons” and oppose “modern-day despotism”
“No other Muslim has done as much, particularly given his power as president of the United States, to further Allah’s goal of a Christian and Jew-free world.”
—2015 column for WorldNetDaily, “Muslim of the Year,” in which Klayman again claims President Obama is secretly a Muslim and not a natural born U.S. citizen
“[T]he Islamic religion and Muslim culture is [sic] simply not compatible with a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values and roots. To the extent they can be kept out of this country, this must be done. We are at war with Islam.”
—2016 column for WorldNetDaily, “America’s Sheriff Goes Before Supremes on Amnesty,” in which Klayman discusses legal proceedings he’s begun with Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Like many far-right figures who were children of the 1960s (including WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah and anti-Muslim activist David Horowitz), Klayman started out politically left of center. As a student at Emory Law School in 1976, he volunteered for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign, “thinking that this seemingly honest peanut farmer and former Georgia governor would be right for the nation after the cesspool of the Nixon years.” He also worked for Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.), a hawk with a record of supporting civil rights legislation.
Klayman began his professional career in Washington as a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) consumer affairs division. Upon discovering that “rather than being a friend of the people, the government was often their enemy,” he left and joined a private law firm – whose partners, he reflected in his pompous 2009 memoir Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment, “also proved to be weak and ethically compromised.” Klayman quit and opened his own practice, and began to shape the strategy that would make him famous. “An aggressive approach against the powers that be alone was not enough,” he wrote in Whores. “The government official or judge who was subject to making decisions based on politics or money would need to be held accountable. … Threats of legal action or, if the threats didn’t work, the actual filing of lawsuits against government personnel, were thus a means to coax them to do the right thing.”
Klayman found plenty of government officials to challenge. Convinced that the Clinton administration was up to its ears in conspiracies and corruption, he filed at least 18 lawsuits between 1992 and 2000 against the president, first lady, and other administration officials. In 1994, he founded Judicial Watch, an activist law firm that he conceived as a private Justice Department that would hold government to account. In this role, he deposed numerous high-ranking administration officials and forced the disclosure of thousands of pages of documents — but didn’t really prove much of anything. “It just never went anywhere, other than having to sit through endless depositions with no particular point to them,” former Clinton advisor James Carville told the Washington Post in 2014.
A federal judge who in 2010 finally dismissed the last of Klayman’s Clinton-era suits essentially agreed with Carville. “There’s no there there,” Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in his order dismissing an action centered around “Filegate,” a thoroughly debunked conservative conspiracy theory that claimed that agents of Hillary Clinton had improperly reviewed FBI files on political adversaries.
Though his endless lawsuits irritated many and produced few results, Klayman’s dogged attacks on the Clinton administration did earn him a place among the Clinton-hating conservative glitterati of the 1990s. As a member of the influential and secretive Council for National Policy, which lobbies for ultraconservative positions, he mingled with the likes of Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the anti-feminist Eagle Forum, and right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife. He also hooked up with Joseph Farah, the entrepreneurial journalist who founded WorldNetDaily, an ultraconservative, Muslim-bashing online newspaper specializing in antigovernment conspiracy theories and bizarre “facts” about God’s plan for America.
Thin-skinned and paranoid, Klayman has embraced and personalized more than his share of far-right conspiracy theories. He believes the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by domestic terrorists was actually masterminded by deceased Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and “American neo-Nazis.” He bought into nearly every anti-Clinton conspiracy theory there was, pursuing at least one dead end in court long after Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, who was no friend of the Clintons, had exonerated the president and first lady. In Whores, Klayman went so far as to suggest that agents of the Clinton administration may have attempted to assassinate him. A Jewish-born convert to Christianity, he sees anti-Semitism everywhere — for instance, as the sole motive of a judge who ruled against him in what Klayman considered to be a slam-dunk case. At the same time, he rails against Jews who, he contends, have betrayed the tenets of their faith by voting Democratic or embracing broadly liberal positions. In a 2013 column for WorldNetDaily, he moaned that his heart “throb[s] in shame” over the crimes of “felonious liberal Jews” who have committed “the moral equivalent of ethical and religious bankruptcy” by aligning themselves with the Obama administration.
Klayman is a whole-hearted Islamophobe who sees violent and “stealth” jihad around every corner and under every bed. In 2013, he speculated that a tragic but accidental explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant might have been the work of Muslim saboteurs. He is also a leading light of the anti-Obama “birther” movement who, among other things, contends that the president is secretly Muslim.
Yet in spite of his relentless attacks on Democrats (and even Republicans who don’t meet his definition of “conservative”), affinity for far-right conspiracy theories, and cozy relationship with leading members of the political right, Klayman defies easy political categorization. He is an admirer of Ralph Nader, a progressive activist best known for his devotion to consumer protection and environmental causes — and also of the late Howard Phillips, a principal architect of the American religious right and co-founder of the far-right Constitution Party, whose members wish to “restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.”
In Whores, Klayman proudly described himself as part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” (his words and Hillary Clinton’s) that plotted to “remove [Bill Clinton] by whatever legal and ethical means were necessary.” But he was also an early adversary of Newt Gingrich, and brags about having been “one of the first” to demand that then-House Speaker Gingrich resign over a Clinton-era ethics scandal. In the 2000s, he filed numerous lawsuits challenging the administration of President George W. Bush and was a vocal critic of the USA PATRIOT Act, which significantly expanded the government’s ability to spy on American citizens. Reflecting on the Bush presidency in Whores, he wrote, “Having violated every known concept of civil rights for American citizens …W. did more for this country’s move to socialism than Marx or Mao could ever have done.”
Klayman’s Bush-era lawsuits did not make the headlines, and at some point in the early 2000s, he broke with Judicial Watch and struck out on his own, competing as a 2004 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Florida’s Republican primary. Though he promised to shrink the government, push for America’s withdrawal from the United Nations, and demand “the immediate removal of Cuba dictator-in-chief Fidel Castro — by force if necessary,” Klayman lost the primary. His reputation also took a hit when the left-leaning Nation magazine suggested that he might have violated campaign finance law by soliciting a loan from the direct-mail outfit that assisted with his campaign.
Having failed in a run for public office that he’d hoped would set him up to challenge Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential race, Klayman returned to private practice. Though he involved himself in the case of Terry Schiavo — a woman in a persistent vegetative state who became a cause célèbre for the Christian Right, which fought to prolong her life by artificial means — and founded Freedom Watch as a sort of successor to Judicial Watch (which he sued in the mid-2000s), Klayman appeared to be fading into obscurity. Until 2008, that is, when the election of Barack Obama, America’s first black president, put the wind back into his sails.
Klayman quickly became a leading proponent of various “birther” conspiracy theories, claiming that Obama was constitutionally ineligible for office because he is somehow not a “natural born citizen.” In 2011, acting on behalf of publisher and friend Joseph Farah, who runs WorldNetDaily, Klayman sued Esquire magazine for more than $120 million over a satirical piece claiming that Farah had decided to destroy 200,000 copies he published of Jerome Corsi’s Where’s The Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President, which was about to go on sale when the president released his birth certificate. That suit was dismissed in June 2012. He also represented two far-right politicians (the Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode and Alabama GOP leader Hugh McInnish) who launched a failed effort in Alabama state court to have Obama removed from the 2012 ballot.
Throughout Obama’s first term, Klayman continued to file the sort of grandiose, unwinnable lawsuits that had made him famous in the 1990s. He sued OPEC, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and the country of Iran, seeking in that last case damages of $10 trillion. In 2011, he represented gay-hating celebrity preacher Bradlee Dean in a $50 million defamation suit against MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and another reporter, which ended with a court ordering Dean to reimburse his opponents for nearly $25,000 in legal fees. The same year, naming himself as plaintiff, he sued Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, for failing to act quickly enough on requests to take down pages posted by Palestinian militants that called for the destruction of Israel and Jews worldwide. In 2012, a judge found the defendants were shielded from liability under the Communications Decency Act.
Given his particular obsession with the supposed dangerousness of the Obama administration — and the supposed illegitimacy of Obama himself — the fact that the president made it back onto the ballot in 2012 seems to have been some kind of tipping point for Klayman. In a rambling manifesto published in April of that year, Klayman claimed to have the power to impanel “citizens’ grand juries” and indict perceived enemies of the American people. Citing the Magna Carta, Marbury vs Madison (the 1803 case which established that the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say over laws’ constitutionality), and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s 1992 opinion in United States v. Williams, Klayman concluded: “Although the customary practice for summoning a federal grand jury is by a court … the [Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure] does not preclude citizens from exercising their own rights to impanel grand juries under the Constitution. … [A]nd if a true bill of indictment results, the courts are technically required to commence proceedings and the executive branch to enforce the court’s edicts.”
Using language and logic reminiscent of that put forth by antigovernment “sovereign citizens” groups (which have long claimed the right to convene their own private grand juries, hold trials in pretend courtrooms, and mete out justice according to their own rules), Klayman continued, “if the courts refuse and the executive branch does not carry out its duties by, for instance, arresting the criminally accused, Americans do have a right to make ‘citizens arrests,’ hold trials and legally mete out punishment in their own right.” Though decades of failed sovereign citizens’ grand juries have amply illustrated that no such right exists, Klayman pressed ahead with his ridiculous scheme. On Sept. 18, 2013, a “citizens grand jury” in Ocala, Fla., found President Obama guilty of “defraud[ing]…the American people into electing an illegal person for the Office of President of the United States, “sentenced” the president to 10 years imprisonment, and demanded that he “forthwith surrender himself into the custody of the American people and the people of Florida.”
The president failed to turn himself him, and less than a month later, on Oct. 13, 2013, Klayman appeared on the steps of Washington, D.C.’s World War II Memorial and called on the assembled crowd to “wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town … put the Koran down and … come out with his hands up.” Obama’s “last chance,” he said, would come on Nov. 19, when Klayman’s newly formed “Reclaim America Now Coalition” would descend on Washington’s LaFayette Park and refuse to leave until the president resigned.
Klayman predicted that at least 2 million people would attend the Nov. 19 kickoff. In the event, only about 100 people — 1/20,000th the promised number — made it to the rally, which featured speeches by a raft of far-right bigwigs who had aligned with Klayman and his Reclaim America effort. Coalition members included Jihad Watch, an anti-Muslim hate group whose director, Robert Spencer, believes that Islam is an inherently violent religion and that multiculturalism is an anti-Christian conspiracy to destroy the West; You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, an anti-gay “ministry” and hate group whose leader, Bradlee Dean, has argued that it is moral to execute LGBT people; Ride for the Constitution, a shadowy coterie of truckers who made news in October with plans to jam Washington, D.C., roads until their demands, which included the president’s impeachment, were met; Gun Owners of America, a pro-militia group that has been described as “eight lanes to the right of the NRA”; and a bevy of other extremist organizations united by their loathing of America’s 44th president.
Though he was dead wrong about the popularity of his peaceful revolution, Klayman, like the proverbial stopped clock, does manage to be right, or at least possibly right, every once in a while. In 2013, he won a landmark victory against the National Security Agency, whose systematic tracking of Americans’ phone records recently had been revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Federal Judge Richard J. Leon agreed with Klayman that the agency’s metadata collection program was “almost certainly” illegal under the Fourth Amendment. Leon stayed his decision so the government could file an appeal, and other federal judges later ruled differently in a number of similar challenges, so the question of the program’s legality will likely not be resolved for some time. Despite these and other limitations, the New York Times editorial board described the ruling as “an enormous symbolic victory for opponents of the bulk-collection program, and a reminder of the importance of the adversarial process.”
Klayman clearly considers himself morally superior to most mortals. Stressing this point in Whores, he bragged that, as a child, he cried when a vending machine returned too much change. But in recent years, the sanctimonious conspiracist has begun to fall afoul of the law himself. The Florida bar publicly reprimanded him in 2011, and in June 2013, the Phoenix New Times reported that the Arizona State Bar was investigating him, possibly in connection with reports that he had misled the court about an administrative matter related to his appearance in a lawsuit against citizens attempting to recall Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County’s immigrant-hating, Obama-bashing sheriff. Also in 2013, New Times published excerpts from an Ohio appellate court ruling that found Klayman had “inappropriately touched” his own children.
Despite these setbacks, Klayman remains as gung-ho as ever, and apparently unconcerned about maintaining what little respect he gained via his initial victory against the NSA. Though Klayman’s “won-lost record in public interest cases is incalculably terrible,” as the Washington Post pointed out in 2014, the veteran gadfly in 2014 signed on to represent Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, whose refusal to pay over $1 million in grazing fees led to a dangerous standoff between Bureau of Land Management officials and armed militiamen in April of that year. Describing the standoff as the start of a “full-scale revolution” in an April 2014 WorldNetDaily column, Klayman placed himself, as ever, on the front lines of an imaginary battle between “patriots” and the forces of evil. “We the People have now risen up and we intend to remove you legally from office. This country belongs to us, not you. This land is our land!” he wrote. “And, we will fight you with all legal means, including exercising our legitimate Second Amendment rights of self-defense, to end your tyranny and restore freedom to our shores!”
Though Klayman may have tried to represent Cliven Bundy following the standoff at his Nevada ranch, he was not allowed to. Nor was he allowed to join Bundy’s legal team following the rancher’s arrest in 2016. (After several of the Cliven’s sons staged an armed occupation of a wildlife refuge near Burns, Ore., the Bundy patriarch was arrested and charged with a litany of crimes, all relating to the 2014 standoff.) Klayman volunteered his services to Bundy, but Gloria Navarro, Nevada’s chief federal judge, issued a statement saying that she would not allow Klayman to enter the case until he provided her with documentation that a disciplinary proceeding against him in Washington, D.C., had returned a favorable resolution.