Donald Trump is usually understood to be the candidate with the most abhorrent views on Islam in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. But after his latest hire, Ted Cruz could steal the title.
For his national security team, the Texas senator recently recruited Frank Gaffney, whose beliefs, even by the low standards of today's debate, represent the absolute worst of what Islamophobia has to offer.
Gaffney first entered the 2016 discussion when Donald Trump cited a dubious poll from Gaffney's Center for Security Policy. But the most intriguing thing about him may not be his bigotry: It may be his penchant for accusing both Muslim and non-Muslim public officials of being engaged in secret Islamic conspiracies.
Here are just a few of the people Gaffney says are part of a Muslim plot to weaken the United States.
President Barack Obama
Gaffney was among the earlier proponents of the theory that Obama is a secret Muslim. When the president traveled to Egypt during his first year in office, Gaffney wrote in an op-ed for the conservative Washington Times: “Whether Mr. Obama actually is a Muslim or simply plays one in the presidency may, in the end, be irrelevant" and accused the president of "aligning himself and his policies with Shariah-adherents such as the Muslim Brotherhood."
Huma Abedin, aide to Hillary Clinton
Gaffney was the driving influence behind a conspiracy theory that Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and may have been secretly infiltrating the State Department on its behalf. The theory got as far as the halls of Congress, where former Minnesota Rep. and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann advocated for a McCarthyesque investigation into Abedin and potential Muslim Brotherhood influences in the U.S. government.
André Carson, Muslim congressman
Gaffney once suggested that Carson, an Indiana Democrat and one of only two Muslims in the House, should be removed from the House Intelligence Committee because of fears that he would use the position to impose Sharia law around the world and try to establish a caliphate.
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
When Obama appointed Kagan to the high court, Gaffney accused her of “enabling of the penetration of Shariah into our capital markets” during her time at Harvard Law School. Gaffney was building on a conspiracy crafted by National Review columnist Andrew C. McCarthy that a legal studies program at Harvard was actually part of a “stealth jihad” being surreptitiously waged against Western society.
Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus
In 2011, Gaffney accused Petraeus, at the time a figure of some esteem in conservative circles, of “submission” to Islam and Sharia law. Petraeus had voiced concern for the security of U.S. soldiers abroad after fundamentalist Christian pastor Terry Jones announced his plans to hold a Koran-burning in Gainesville, Florida.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Not even the failed presidential candidate and Donald Trump
hostage supporter is immune from Gaffney’s paranoia. When Christie appointed Muslim Indian-American Sohail Mohammed to a judgeship, Gaffney accused the governor of potentially aiding “treason.”
Conservative anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist
Gaffney was the source of a rift within the conservative movement when he accused the president of Americans for Tax Reform of having ties to—you guessed it—the Muslim Brotherhood. Norquist, famous for insisting that Republican politicians pledge never to raise taxes, has been a target of Islamophobes like Gaffney because of his marriage to Palestinian Muslim Samah Alrayyes. The accusations against Norquist and other influential conservatives got Gaffney banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Secret BFF duo Saddam Hussein and Timothy McVeigh
In 2002, Gaffney pushed the conspiracy theory that Saddam Hussein had played a secret role in the Oklahoma City bombing. Specifically, he said that bomber Timothy McVeigh had secretly been helped by a Palestinian man named Hussain Hashem Al Hussaini who was surreptitiously working for Saddam’s Republican Guard. Gaffney peddled this outlandish theory to bolster the case for invading Iraq.