Frank Gaffney and the Norquist Identity

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 2 2012 1:32 PM

Frank Gaffney and the Norquist Identity

Amanda Terkel has written a new piece, with new details, about the long-running and very public dispute between the Center for Security Policy's Frank Gaffney and Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist. To boil it down: Gaffney wants conservatives to pay more attention to Norquist's outreach to Muslims and his "insidious Muslim Brotherhood influence operation." Norquist, who's got the upper hand in most of the fora where this comes up, says that Gaffney's peddling "conspiracy theories."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

It's a behemoth of a feud, and I've discussed it fairly recently with Gaffney. Last week, a source passed on a letter he wrote after a 2003 conservative meeting about whether to give Norquist an award. In the letter, a pretty offended activist says that Gaffney smeared Grover Norquist in different terms, questioning his sexuality. Gaffney denies that completely.

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"It's an accounting of a conservation that never happened," he said, "an attribution to Grover about his sexuality about which I know nothing. Everything in that letter, I guess is useful in the service of the demonization that Grover and his allies have been doing to me from the beginning."

The "gay" story was extraordinarily un-intuitive. In 2004 Norquist married Samah Alrayyes, a Palestinian Muslim. And that's been a source of some sub rosa rumormongering. Again, though, Gaffney was having nothing this.

"People have asked me: 'Is he gay?'" he said, "and I say 'I have no idea.' They bring it up. I don't. It doesn't matter what he does in his bedroom. It matters what he does in the service of Muslim Brotherhood. It's an important charge that we're able to document to convincing degree. If a fraction of the time spent characterizing me had been spent attacking him for what is known, this would be a lot easier for people to understand."

This is all getting dredged up again because of what Michele Bachman did last month. She and four other members of Congress have asked the federal government -- via several public letters -- to investigate whether there's been Muslim Brotherhood infiltration at high levels. Bachmann cited information from the Holy Land Foundation trial, which gave us a lot of what we know about this; Rep. Keith Ellison sent a public letter to her, accusing her of smears with no proof. The whole spate was elevated by what Gaffney called the "nitroglycerine of John McCain on the Senate floor," condemning Bachmann for raising questions about Huma Abedin. Here's where I agree with Gaffney -- reporting on this story is heavy on personalities, light on the documents.

"The letter to the State Department that sparked this is not long," he said. "If you don't want to read that, the 16-page response letter to Ellison is a quick read, with sources. Most of the documents it's based on are in English, for God's sake! Nobody's troubled themselves to look at any of this, which makes this all the more outrageous. I've been around this town too long to be un-jaded, but even so, this is one of the most extraordinary things in 36 years -- how utterly disconnected from reality these charges have been, at every turn. If this weren't so manifestly part of information dominance campaign in the service of jihad, it wouldn't be so disturbing. Connecting the dots between people, reading the sources -- that used to be investigative journalism 101."

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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