This is the first in a two-part series about the Islamaphobia network and CPAC.
A year ago, anti-Sharia conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney leaned against a column in the basement of CPAC as he warned ThinkProgress about how Muslim extremists had infiltrated the annual gathering of conservative activists in Washington. It was that kind of conspiracy theorizing that made Gaffney unwelcome upstairs where the official panels and keynote speeches were held, as ThinkProgress first reported.
Gaffney’s attacks on conservative stalwarts like Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, and Suhail Khan, a Bush administration offical, as agents of the Muslim Brotherhood has made him a bit of a pariah among conservatives. David Keene, the then-chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which puts on CPAC, and the current head of the NRA, told ThinkProgress last year that Gaffney “has become personally and tiresomely obsessed with his weird belief that anyone who doesn’t agree with him…[must be] dupes of the nation’s enemies.”
This year, the ban on Gaffney’s official participation remained in effect, but he was able to purchase a side room at the conference through TeaParty.net, giving him unofficial but proximate access to the conference. Conservatives are hesitant to speak ill about each other in public, but a source close to CPAC told ThinkProgress that Gaffney, already on thin ice, made CPAC leadership “livid” by attacking Norquist during his panel Saturday.
The degree to which conservative leaders have tried to distance themselves from Gaffney and his Sharia conspiracy theories is especially apparent given two documents obtained exclusively by ThinkProgress.
Last September, the board of the ACU unanimously passed a resolution (read it here) condemning the “false and unfounded” attacks Gaffney had made against Norquist and Khan, both board members, after having another board member, Cleta Mitchell, look into Gaffney’s serious charges of sedition and abetting an enemy.
In a letter to the ACU board (read it here), Mitchell, a prominent and very conservative attorney, said she reviewed the “evidence” Gaffney presented (including a lengthy PowerPoiint presentation and DVDs smearing Norquist and Khan), and found Gaffney’s “ceaseless war” to be “reprehensible.” She wrote in the conclusion:
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 b eallowed to be used as a platform to spread Mr. Gaffney’s baseless attacks.
The unanimous ACU board — which includes neoconservatives like U.N. ambassador John Bolton — endorsed the letter and resolved that Gaffney’s claims against Kahn and Norquist were “false and unfounded,” writing that the board “profoundly regrets and rejects as unwarranted the past and on-going attacks upon their patriotism and character.”
The board includes some of the most prominent conservative operatives and activists in the country (view a full list here, though Asa Hutchison and Carly Fiorina were not members at the time of the letter).
Gaffney is increasingly isolated by his fellow conservatives, yet his organization continues to receive funding from major mainstream conservative donors like the Bradley Foundation.