Frank Gaffney is reportedly serving as an adviser to President-Elect Donald Trump.
The New York Times reports that Gaffney is one of three officials currently offering national security advice to the president-elect’s transition team. Trump’s communications director Jason Miller has denied that Gaffney is on the Trump transition team; this doesn’t really contradict the initial reporting, though, as the Times said that he was offering advice but was not officially on the transition team.
Frank Gaffney has been criticized over the years for anti-Muslim statements and for his promotion of fringe conspiracy theories, most of which are aimed at Muslims. Here’s what you need to know about Gaffney and his relationship with Donald Trump.
1. He Worked in the Ronald Reagan Administration
Frank Gaffney has experience working in government, having served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1987. He also served as acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs for seven months in 1987.
He was ultimately forced to leave his position, though, as The Washington Post reported at the time.
“By midnight Friday, Gaffney’s belongings were boxed and he was gone,” the Post reported (via The Chicago Tribute). “On the spot, Gaffney called a press conference to express his ‘worries’ about the Reagan administration’s eagerness for an arms control agreement.”
Gaffney then founded the Center for Security Policy, and he would often voice his opinions on foreign policy and criticize the Reagan administration.
2. He Believes President Obama Is a Muslim
In recent years, Gaffney has become known for propagating a wide variety of conspiracy theories, most of which are anti-Islam. For example, he is a strong believer in the theory that President Barack Obama is Muslim, not a Christian as he says. At the very least, Obama is sympathetic to Islam, Gaffney explains.
“The man now happy to have his Islamic-rooted middle name featured prominently has engaged in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain over Czechoslovakia at Munich,” Gaffney wrote in a Washington Times column in 2009.
Gaffney goes on to say, in response to a speech the president made addressing the Muslim world, that “there is mounting evidence” that Obama may be Muslim himself. Throughout the rest of the piece, Gaffney analyzes the wording of Obama’s address and picks out highly-specific phrases that he argues no non-Muslim would use.
In 2010, Gaffney in a piece on Breitbart News accused President Obama of reducing America’s missile defense capabilities due to his “submission to Islam.” He also said that the new Missile Defense Agency logo is reminiscent of the Islamic crescent, writing that “the new MDA shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.”
In fact, the logo was not new, nor was it produced under Obama’s direction.
3. He Believes That There Are Muslim Brotherhood Agents in the Federal Government
Another one of Gaffney’s conspiracy theories is that there are several government officials who are secretly agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
For instance, he believes that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is a Muslim Brotherhood agent. This theory was promoted by several Republican members of Congress in 2012 when they signed a letter to the State Department asking for a formal investigation into whether the government had been infiltrated by Islamic extremists. According to The Daily Beast, the letter singled out Huma Abedin, saying that Abedin “has three family members—her late father, her mother, and her brother—connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations. Her position provides her with routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making.”
The letter from congressional Republicans cited the work of Frank Gaffney, and Gaffney later said that “they used our material as part of their documentation for what prompted them to write for these investigation.”
John McCain quickly came out to say that Huma Abedin is “an honorable woman” and “a dedicated public servant,” debunking the conspiracy theories promoted by his fellow Republicans.
“These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way.” McCain said. “These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.”
Gaffney hasn’t just made these accusations against Democrats, though. He has also said that Republican strategist Grover Norquist is a Muslim brotherhood agent. He even created a petition in 2014 trying to get Norquist banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“We are in a war, and he has been working with the enemy for over a decade,” Gaffney said of Norquist, according to The Huffington Post.
Gaffney himself was later banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference.
4. He Was One of Ted Cruz’s Foreign Policy Advisers
During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Frank Gaffney worked for Texas Senator Ted Cruz as a foreign policy adviser.
When asked on CNN if it was appropriate to be working with someone who has promoted fringe conspiracies theories, Ted Cruz defended Frank Gaffney, saying that questions about things Gaffney has said are just an example of the liberal media being too politically correct.
“I recognize that folks in the media get really nervous when you actually call out radical Islamic terrorism,” Cruz said. “Frank Gaffney’s someone I respect. Frank Gaffney is a serious thinker who has been focused on fighting Jihadism across the globe. And he’s endured attacks from the left and from the media because he speaks out against radical Islamic terror.”
When asked whether he believes that Gaffney is right in asserting that Barack Obama is Muslim, Ted Cruz did not answer the question.
5. Donald Trump Has Cited His Work
If Frank Gaffney ends up being a national security adviser for Trump, it would not be the first time his work has influenced the president-elect. In late 2015, when Donald Trump called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, he cited data from Frank Gaffney.
In his speech, Trump mentioned that “the Center for Security Policy released data showing ‘25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad’ and 51% of those polled ‘agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.'”
The Center for Security Policy is a think tank founded by Frank Gaffney, and it has been criticized for promoting conspiracy theories and misleading information. As The Washington Post points out, the information Trump cites came from an online survey of 600 people, so it was not exactly any sort of scientific poll. Plus, the survey was of Muslims living in the United States right now, so even if the numbers were accurate, it wouldn’t have anything to do with Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration.
Earlier this year, the Center for Security Policy was described by the Southern Policy Law Center as “a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United State.”