Who is Frank Gaffney?

“One of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.”

Frank Gaffney testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013 on the fate of prisoners at the Guantanamo Detention Center. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Frank Gaffney testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013 on the fate of prisoners at the Guantanamo Detention Center. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Frank Gaffney is now advising President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Gaffney joined the team to aid in national security issues, as Vice President-elect Mike Pence became in charge of the transition team, replacing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. As Gaffney joined the team, previous Trump national security advisers former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Matthew Freedman, a close associate of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, were ousted.

Jason Miller, Trump’s communication director, denied the reports that Gaffney was involved with the transition efforts on MSNBC on Wednesday. These denials have drawn skepticism from the press.

Whatever the truth, it’s worth knowing who Gaffney is, and why his rumored addition to the team is so troubling.

Gaffney, who served in the Department of Defense under President Reagan, is also a known proponent of conspiracy theories, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has called him “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.”

Gaffney repeatedly accused political rivals of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood

Perhaps one of Gaffney’s favorite theories is the connection of politicians to the Muslim Brotherhood. In the past, he has accused Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and President Obama of having connections to the group. (Like Trump, Gaffney also believes Obama is Muslim and continued to promote the conspiracy after Obama was elected president.) He has also accused Grover Norquist, an anti-tax activist, Suhail Khan, who led Muslim outreach under the George W. Bush administration, and 2012 presidential Herman Cain of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.


As ThinkProgress reported at the time that Gaffney was advising Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in his bid for the presidency, Gaffney has repeatedly argued that the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the government.

In an interview with The Daily Beast in July 2012, Gaffney said the Muslim Brotherhood was waiting to seize power in Washington, D.C., a moment which he called “zero hour.” He also told the publication that President Obama, whose citizenship and religion he has questioned in the past, is not Muslim but is “sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood supremacist agenda — I think that is now beyond dispute.”

A year earlier, Gaffney had called for a new House committee, modeled on Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities, dedicated to investigating “the extent to which the Obama administration’s anti-American activities reflect the success of the toxic Muslim Brotherhood… in penetrating and subverting both U.S. government agencies and civil institutions.”

Gaffney claims that the United States is submitting to Shariah law

Just as he accuses multiple people of being in the Muslim Brotherhood, Gaffney likes to accuse people of promoting Shariah law in the United States. In the past, he has accused both Gen. David Petraeus and President Obama of “submission” to Shariah law. In one bizarre instance in 2010, Gaffney said that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency logo, as well as Obama’s own campaign logo, incorporated the Islamic crescent moon, thus proving “U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.


Gaffney obviously doesn’t fully understand what Shariah is. In a strict definition, Shariah is referring to divine law as expressed in the Quran and Sunnah, the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad. But it also simply means “path” in Arabic, and Muslims turn to Shariah for guidance on topics as diverse as crime, politics, and economics, and for personal matters like diet, prayer, and everyday etiquette. Like any other religion, different Islamic sects and schools of jurisprudence define Shariah in different ways.

But more importantly, the myth of Shariah law taking over the United States is exactly that: a myth. Gaffney continues to promote the popular conspiracy theory among the far-right that there are “no go zones” in the United States, where Muslims live isolated and non-Muslims (including authorities) are not allowed to enter.

“It shouldn’t be the case that there are some areas of cities, or other parts of our country, that are off-limits to authorities, that are places that are known to… well, primarily to be dominated by folks who are engaged in a practice that is anti-Constitutional and hostile to the values of our country,” Gaffney told Breitbart a few months ago. “Specifically, those who are seeking to impose a program they call sharia.

Gaffney repeatedly promotes wild conspiracy theories

Gaffney is the founder of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a conservative organization that calls itself the “Special Forces in the War of Ideas.” The center has been noted for its promotion of conspiracy theories by the Anti-Defamation League, the BBC, CNN, the International Business Times, Salon, the Washington Post, and countless others. Among the many bizarre conspiracy theories he’s promoted, Gaffney has argued that Anders Breivik, a right-wing Christian Norwegian responsible for the 2011 Norway attacks, actually conducted the attacks as a “false-flag operation” in order to “suppress criticism” of Shariah.

Gaffney is so extreme he was banned from the premiere conservative political conference

Gaffney’s conspiracy theories got so out of hand that he was banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2011. Cleta Mitchell, a board member of the American Conservative Union (ACU) that hosts CPAC, noted at the time:

I have tried to talk Mr.Gaffney into ceasing these attacks — but to no avail. I have done everything I know to do to try and bring this to a halt, including private conversations and public appearances saying essentially what I have said in this letter. I have taken whatever official actions in my capacity as a board member of various organizations to vote against any motion that would support Mr. Gaffney’s allegations and will continue to do so.

Further, I will work to ensure that any organization with which I am involved will not be allowed to be used as a platform to spread Mr. Gaffney’s baseless attacks.

Trump relied on Gaffney to justify his most extreme, bigoted policy proposals

Perhaps because of his great interest in conspiracy theories, this isn’t the first time the Center for Security Policy has been on Trump’s radar. When Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in December 2015, he cited an unreliable poll from CSP.


CSP, which had also previously called for a ban on Muslim immigration, claimed to have found that “25 percent of [American Muslims] polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad,” and 51 percent “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.”

Given that CSP was conducting the poll, and a variety of other factors in how it was actually conducted, the poll was “shoddy” at best.