One of Ted Cruz’s top national security advisers has convinced the National Rifle Association’s members to weigh in on whether or not they think one of their board members is a secret Muslim spy.
The adviser, Frank Gaffney, aided by cheerleader-in-chief Glenn Beck, has spent more than a decade trying to convince Washington conservatives that anti-tax leader Grover Norquist is part of a secret Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the government and sow the seeds of jihad. It fits squarely in the “whoa if true” category, and it’s amusing nonsense.
Over the years, Gaffney’s crusade has gotten him slowly pushed to the far outer margins of the conservative movement—barred from Conservative Political Action Conference, kicked out of influential conservatives’ closed-door meetings, booted from strategy lunches and basically expelled from anywhere that polite, sane company resides.
Cruz is fine with him, though. Last week, news broke that he had added Gaffney to his national security team.
Norquist, for his part, is taking it all in stride.
“Gaffney’s fooled a bunch of people,” Norquist told with The Daily Beast from his office in downtown D.C. “This happens. It’s a long way to the White House.”
Glenn Beck—naturally—is in Gaffney’s corner and has indulged his theorizing on his radio show and TV channel. Beck regularly “educates” his 7 million-plus listeners about Norquist’s alleged terror ties and his role as one of NRA’s 76 board members.
Last year, Gaffney and Beck encouraged NRA members to vote against Norquist’s re-election to the board—after all, God forbid the agents of Sharia take over the NRA!
Norquist easily won re-election.
But Gaffney and Beck wouldn’t let something as simple as flat-out defeat stop them—what would the Founding Fathers say?
So this year, they got the requisite 450 voting members of the NRA to sign a petition calling for Norquist to be recalled from the board (voting members are those with a five-year or lifetime membership with the gun group). Mother Jones reported that Oregon pastor Stu Weber helmed the signature-gathering efforts, and that this is the NRA’s first vote to recall a board member in 15 years.
The attorney aiding their cause is Joseph Schmitz, former Pentagon inspector general who stepped down among allegations that he tried to stop investigations of his colleagues—and a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump.
As a result of their hard work and dedication, voting members of the NRA got a ballot in the mail that gives them the option to remove Norquist from the group’s board. We’ll know the voting results by the end of May.
While this effort was underway, Ted Cruz recruited Gaffney as an official national security adviser for his campaign. And Cruz has campaigned around the country with Glenn Beck (which sometimes gets a little weird). So that makes two key members of the Cruz Crew who believe that one of the conservative movement’s most influential leaders is secretly trying to aid and abet radical Islamic terrorists. We would roll our eyes if these guys didn’t work for a guy who actually has a greater-than-zero chance of being president.
Just a few days before Cruz announced Gaffney would join his team, the conspiracy theorist said on his radio show that Norquist has done “incalculable harm” to America.
Norquist said Cruz’s decision to team up with Gaffney left him confused.
“On those things, I think they’re just tossing out names,” he said. “I don’t know. I mean, we work with the Cruz people.”
After The Daily Beast asked if Cruz should know better, given that the senator has called Gaffney “the one and only” and “a clarion voice for truth,” Norquist paused.
“People only sort of know people,” he said. “They know a piece of them—I’d be guessing. I don’t know.”
“I work with him on lots of stuff,” he added, of the senator. “Obviously Cruz is not part of some weird conspiracy.”
Norquist added that top Cruz staffers are associated with his own work—including campaign spokesman Ron Nehring, who used to work at the group he founded, Americans for Tax Reform; and Senate chief of staff Paul Teller, who regularly attends Norquist’s weekly gathering of center-right insiders. He also pointed out that Cruz approvingly posted a Norquist quote on Facebook and boasted about signing his anti-tax pledge.
By Gaffney’s own methodology, Norquist added, this could mean that Cruz’s team already carries the stain of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration.
Others were less inclined to give Cruz the benefit of the doubt.
“I would think Ted Cruz, of all people, would know the controversies involving Gaffney over the years,” said Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and a board member of the American Conservative Union. “And I’m very, very surprised. Quite frankly, I’m hoping it was a mistake.”
Norquist’s camp isn’t a lonely one. A host of prominent conservative figures are urging the group’s voting members to keep him on the board.
There’s Edwin Meese, Ronald Reagan’s attorney general; Michael Chertoff, Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security; Cleta Mitchell, one of the most powerful attorneys in the conservative movement; and Dov Zakheim, former Under Secretary of Defense for Bush and a former board member for Gaffney’s think tank. And there’s many more—they’ve all said Gaffney is being ridiculous.
Norquist said an upside of Gaffney’s crusade has been reading all the nice things these people have written to defend him.
“It’s like dying or something, and everyone writes you a nice note,” he said.
Plus, the very strong implication here—that the NRA has been co-opted by terrorists—is, on its face, hilarious.
“It’s not like people are whipping out prayer rugs at NRA board meetings,” said NRA board member and lobbyist Todd Rathner.
“Given the staleness of all allegations, the lack of factual support, and the inability to predict or control the level of any future distraction in executing NRA’s mission, we disagree with the Petitioner in this case and recommend a NO vote,” read a statement from the group’s official board governing hearings.
The NRA’s hearing board, by the way, held a hearing to examine the evidence against Norquist. They concluded it was bunk. It remains to be seen if the NRA’s voting members will come to the same conclusion.
Video reporting by Sara Sayed and Nathan Place