SAYLORSBURG, Pennsylvania — The biggest foe of Turkey’s authoritarian president is a Hillary Clinton fan.
Fethullah Gülen, the Islamic scholar in self-exile whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blamed for this weekend’s coup attempt, sung the former secretary of state’s praises to a small huddle of reporters who had gathered at his compound in the Poconos.
“I find her to be very courteous, very kind,” Gülen told The Daily Beast, speaking through his translator and spokesman. Gülen noted that he and Clinton had a brief face-to-face meeting during her previous Senate campaign.
“And before that meeting, some years ago, President [Bill] Clinton was facing a difficult situation here [in America],” he continued. “I wrote a letter to him encouraging him that he’s a successful president, and Hillary… actually wrote a response to that letter. So I find her to be very courteous and kind, and I find her to be of great hope for this country.”
Y. Alp Aslandogan, the Alliance for Shared Values executive director who translated Gülen’s comments, said that the “difficult situation” was President Clinton’s scandalous affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Gülen’s statements on Sunday. Gülen and his associates could not immediately provide The Daily Beast with a copy of the letter Hillary Clinton allegedly wrote to the Turkish opposition figure.
“If she ends up actually winning the election, of course she is going to prioritize the interests of the United States,” Gülen said. “She will prioritize the position and the relationship of this country with the rest of the world, and therefore we will not busy her by trying to bring our little matters into her agenda.”
The man whom Erdoğan calls the mastermind behind the coup attempt lives on a 28-acre property amid picturesque farms in rural Pennsylvania. The compound is gated, with a security camera and guard standing watch.
Once inside the gate, Gülen’s aides took pains to be hospitable as they toured reporters around the well-manicured property. The compound also functions as a community center and religious retreat, where sympathizers visit for up to weeks at a time.
On Saturday, Gülen denied any involvement to the failed coup but compared Erdoğan’s administration to the Nazis. He added that he was unsure of who his followers still were in Turkey. Erdoğan’s supporters counter that Gülen and his followers represent a “fifth column” with loyalists in the police, army, and judiciary.
Despite his poor health—his aides say he is suffering from heart disease and diabetes—Gülen spoke with reporters for roughly an hour on Sunday afternoon, sharing his views on Hillary Clinton, ISIS, and his fondness for America. Gülen, who had reportedly gone two years without taking an interview, took questions from journalists the day after the coup attempt, and held another media availability on Sunday.
His aides told reporters that he rarely leaves his building, and almost never leaves the property, and that he leads a mundane life. The Turkish government and his critics routinely accuse him of nefarious activities, and of being more dangerous than Osama Bin Laden.
As of press time local authorities say they have no evidence to suggest Gülen is involved with any illegal plots including the bloody and failed coup in his home country.
“As district attorney, I have been the chief law enforcement officer of Monroe County for 17 years,” E. David Christine, the local DA, told The Daily Beast. “Not once have I received any reports or complaints that suggest in the slightest degree that Mr. Gülen has been anything other than a law abiding resident of the county.”