Frank Gaffney Banned from CPAC

While I've expressed my dissatisfaction with the degree that CPAC has embraced the worst elements of the conservative movement in recent years, it does appear that there is a line.

While I’ve expressed my dissatisfaction with the degree that CPAC has embraced the worst elements of the conservative movement in recent years, it does appear that there is a line.

ThinkProgress (“EXCLUSIVE: Conservative Board Unanimously Condemned Gaffney’s ‘Reprehensible’ And ‘Unfounded’ Attacks“):

 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 — conspiracy theorizing that had made Gaffney unwelcome upstairswhere 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, andSuhail Kahn, 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, 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 Shaira 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 Kahn, 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 conservativeattorney, said she reviewed the “evidence” Gaffney presented (including a lengthy PowerPoiint presentation and DVDs smearing Norquist and Kahn), and found Gaffney’s “ceaseless war” to be “reprehensible.”


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.”

This is welcome news, indeed.

The Republican/conservative track record on this particular issue is mixed. On the one hand, President George W. Bush has been almost universally lauded for immediately and repeatedly emphasizing in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that America is not at war with Islam, that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful, and so forth. On the other, prominent conservatives have embraced such outrages as the shameful campaign against building a Muslim community center a few blocks from Ground Zero.

Some of the leaders of the latter movement are welcomed with open arms at CPAC. Yet, apparently, there’s a point where anti-Muslim bigotry crosses a line and is unwelcome in the movement.

via  Ben Smith via Blake Hounshel


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Tip of the iceberg. It’s been obvious for years that Gaffney is very strange but he still pops up in Conservato land. Whether he’s demonstrably crazier than Norquist and a few others is a bit of an open question.

  2. Tano says:

    I’ll be impressed when they denounce absurd and malicious attacks against people they actually disagree with.

  3. says:

    Good to know the where the line is: board members receiving direct scrutiny and having false allegations made about them. That’s what it takes to get condemned by this group.

    There are so many things wrong here it is hard to know where to start…

  4. michael reynolds says:

    This is not about banning anti-Muslim bigots, it’s about protecting CPAC heavyweights.

    Let me know when they get around to banning Peter Brimelow.

  5. Kylopod says:

    >Let me know when they get around to banning Peter Brimelow.

    Yeah. The idea of praising them for banning Gaffney when they’re still giving a platform to an outright white nationalist is insane.

  6. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    James, are you really trying to tell us CPAC bounced Gaffney to prevent the bullying of a religious minority? C’mon, man – this is insulting.

  7. Kylopod says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    >C’mon, man – this is insulting.

    True enough. The report seems to indicate his crime was to attack conservative bigwigs like Norquist. There’s nothing in there condemning his attacks on Muslims or his paranoid assaults on Obama and other Democrats.

  8. A good move but I’m not sure what it means considering that the likes of Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer were all over the place this weekend

  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m not sure what it means


  10. michael reynolds says:

    The crime wasn’t bigotry, the crime was lèse majesté.

  11. Libertarian Commie says:

    Considering Grover Norquist is married to a Muslim woman, I find it hard to believe he only cares about his own ego in this circumstance.

  12. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Libertarian Commie: Sure, but CPAC doesn’t. The organization couldn’t even be bothered to pay lip service toward tolerance.

  13. giantslor says:

    So if a conservative attacks other conservatives with false and unfounded allegations, he is a reprehensible liar and must be ostracized. But if conservatives attack Obama with false and unfounded allegations, they are courageous truth-tellers and must be praised.

    Meanwhile, CPAC has welcomed white nationalists Peter Brimelow and Robert Vandervoort without a peep of protest from the GOP presidential candidates.

    But they haven’t attacked fellow conservatives, so I guess they’re OK.

  14. Neil Hudelson says:

    So they banned him not for his batsh!t crazy ideas, but for attacking Grover Norquist…

  15. Jim Treacher says:

    Mosque. Not a community center. A mosque. Let’s call things what they are.

  16. Jim Treacher says:

    @Tano: After you.

  17. Libertarian Commie says:

    @giantslor: Who smeared Obama at CPAC?

  18. merl says:

    @Jim Treacher: OK, community center, not Mosque.

  19. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Jim, please tell us why you believe “community center” vs. “mosque” matters.

  20. Kylopod says:

    @Jim Treacher:

    Mosque. Not a community center. A mosque. Let’s call things what they are.

    It is a community center that includes a mosque. As Wikipedia explains:

    “The proposed multi-faith aspects of the design include a 500-seat auditorium, theater, a performing arts center, a fitness center, a swimming pool, a basketball court, a childcare area, a bookstore, a culinary school, an art studio, a food court, and a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks. The prayer space for the Muslim community will accommodate 1,000–2,000 people.”

    That is no more a mosque than a burrito is an avocado. Insisting that it is won’t make it so.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    James, it seems I’m in agreement with many commenters here. I had to read your column twice to see if you were being ironic. Alas, you weren’t. So CPAC condemns people who smear a couple of party bigwigs that control a huge money firehouse. But they have nothing to say in their letter about the smearing of anyone who isn’t “in the club”. They are outraged by the “pain inflicted on (the two rich guys)..and their families” but feel they need to keep stroking the insane bigotry that is the republican party id.

    James, I just don’t see how you can say this represents “a point where anti-Muslim bigotry crosses a line and is unwelcome in the movement”. It absolutely is no such thing. It represents a point at which even a useful bigot is made unwelcome. That point: insulting the fundraisers and donors.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    Kylopod, for the people who believe that all the mooslums are tricky and devious, this is simply a mosque and all that other stuff doesn’t matter. The modern republican is simply not reality based. They don’t worship what they believe in, they worship belief itself. You cannot be a member of their team unless you believe absolutely, and believing in defiance of reality makes you a better team member in their eyes.

  23. Libertarian Commie says:

    I like how my last comment got thumbs downs but no responses. Seriously, who smeared Obama at CPAC? Are you just making this up?

  24. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Libertarian Commie: WaPo column, all about the Republicans’ negativity, featuring:

    Take, for example, the speech to CPAC by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. Among his criticisms of the Obama administration: It “made an art form out of the orchestrated attack”; it will “go after anybody or any organization they think is standing in their way”; it releases “the liberal thugs” on opponents; it “used the resources of the government itself to intimidate or silence those who question or oppose it”; it engages in “attacking private citizens or groups for the supposed crime of turning a profit”; it takes it on itself to “dig through other people’s tax returns”; and it has no higher priority “than picking on Fox News.”

    “The president seems to have forgotten . . . that he was elected to be president of the United States, not the Occupy Wall Street fan club,” McConnell lectured, spitting out the words.


    The Republican candidates for president visited CPAC on Friday to deliver more of the same: “We’re going to win by making Barack Obama and his failed policies the issue in this race” (Rick Santorum); “History will record the Obama presidency as the last gasp of liberalism’s great failure” (Romney); and “My goal, with your help, is that by the time President Obama lands in Chicago, we will have repudiated at least 40 percent of his government on the opening day” (Newt Gingrich).

  25. Libertarian Commie says:

    That sounds like partisan posturing to me. I can imagine a lot of Tea Party-bashing and trash-talking Romney and Gingrich if liberals had a similar conference to CPAC, but it’s just partisan douchebaggery, not a real smear. =/