Pompeo Declines to Distance Himself From Anti-Muslim Hate Groups

by Eli Clifton

During his confirmation hearings in the Senate today, CIA Director and Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo declined to distance himself from anti-Muslim advocates Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel. He also refused to explicitly reverse his stated position that gay sex is a “perversion.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) grilled Pompeo about his ties to hate group leaders who target Muslims, including Frank Gaffney, whose radio show Pompeo has appeared on more than 20 times between 2013 and 2016 and heads up the Center for Security Policy (CSP). Pompeo also figured prominently among the speakers at the CSP’s 2015 “Defeat Jihad Summit.”

Gaffney is a prolific anti-Muslim advocate and conspiracy theorist who claims that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and former George W. Bush appointee Suhail Khan were part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the U.S. government. He also asserted that the Missile Defense Agency logo under the Obama presidency “appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent with the Obama campaign logo” and served as the de facto inspiration for Trump’s Muslim ban.

In 2015, Then-candidate Donald Trump cited polling commissioned by Gaffney and conducted by Kellyanne Conway’s polling agency to justify a “a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” The poll showed that 51% of Muslims agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice to being governed according to Shariah.” But Conway’s own firm admitted that the data was unreliable and not “statistically representative of the entire U.S. Muslim population.”

Booker asked Pompeo:

[Gaffney] has said that Muslims who […] are adherent of their faith should be […] tried for sedition and should be prosecuted. Did you remain silent when you were on his show? […] Were you silent in your position of authority against these words that are violative of the American constitution? Were you silent with him?

Pompeo responded that “my record on this is unambiguous” but did not distance himself from Gaffney.

Booker went on to ask Pompeo about Brigitte Gabriel, describing the anti-Muslim group ACT! for America, which she heads up, as “considered a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.” Pompeo sponsored the group’s legislative conference in 2016 and was “bestowed with our organization’s highest honors of National Security Eagle Award for 2016,” according to Gabriel.

Gabriel has suggested that Obama could be a secret Muslim because he grew up “praying just like Osama bin Laden prayed.” She also claims that school textbooks in the U.S. are “literally brainwashing our students to prepare them to turn against our own soldiers and our own military and government by basically feeding them the talking points of al-Qaeda.”

Pompeo again declined to distance himself from Gabriel or her statements.

Booker concluded by pressing Pompeo to reject his previous statements that gay sex is “a perversion.” Pompeo replied that his “respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the same,” but declined to directly answer Booker’s question.

Watch Booker’s exchange with Pompeo:

Booker’s confrontational questioning of Pompeo’s association with anti-Muslim bigots and declarations about gays and lesbians comes on the heels of a warning by Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in The Washington Post about National Security Adviser John Bolton and Mike Pompeo’s “anti-Muslim ties.”

Greenblatt wrote:

It is no accident in an atmosphere of such stereotyping of Muslims that anti-Semitic incidents have risen dramatically this past year. Hate begets more hate, plain and simple.

The kind of bigotry that Bolton and Pompeo have articulated and associated themselves with are not the values that have made America great, nor are they the values that have sustained the Jewish people in diaspora and in the Jewish state of Israel.

Greenblatt concluded that Pompeo should be asked “tough questions during his confirmation hearing.”


Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.