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Misleading Poll Used to Justify Donald Trump’s Call to Ban Muslims From US

Experts describe Gaffney as one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes and the poll’s methodology as questionable.

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump cited a misleading poll from Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy to justify a call he issued “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Gaffney has been described as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes” and experts dismiss the poll’s methodology as questionable.

Citing Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, Trump Demands No Muslims Be Allowed to Enter America

Trump Campaign Press Release Cites Poll From Center For Security Policy In His Call For “Total And Complete Shutdown Of Muslims Entering The United States.” On December 7, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign issued a press release demanding an end to Muslims entering America, citing a poll from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy:

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. Most recently, a poll from the Center for Security Policy released data showing “25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad” and 51% of those polled, “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.” [The Daily Caller, 12/7/15]

Frank Gaffney Is a “Notorious Islamophobe” Who Uses His Organization to Push Offensive Conspiracy Theories About Muslims

Southern Poverty Law Center: Frank Gaffney Is “One Of America’s Most Notorious Islamophobes.” A profile of Frank Gaffney by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which labels Gaffney as an anti-Muslim extremist, detailed how his Islamophobic conspiracy theories grew so extreme – including accusing Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of being part of a “Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy” – that the right-wing Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) banned him from future events, after he accused two of its board members of being Muslim Brotherhood agents:

Once a respectable Washington insider, Frank Gaffney Jr. is now one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes. Gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, Gaffney believes that “creeping Shariah,” or Islamic religious law, is a dire threat to American democracy. He favors congressional hearings to unmask subversive Muslim conspiracies, and was even banned from far-right Conservative Political Action Conference events after accusing two of its organizers of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.


If Frank Gaffney Jr. had his way, average hard-working Americans of the Muslim faith would be dragged before Congress to face such questions as, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood?” In Gaffney’s mind, America is in peril, and bringing back the notorious Cold War-era House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) would expose the subversives he imagines are working to implement Shariah religious law throughout the land.

Gaffney’s wild-eyed accusations would certainly fit right into the red-baiting HUAC tradition, judging from his long history of smears and innuendo aimed at Muslims. There was his groundless 2011 claim that Huma Abedin – aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – was part of a “Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy.” That charge was subsequently trumpeted by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), prompting even conservative Republican stalwarts such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) to condemn it.

Then there was Gaffney’s 2011 claim that two board members of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) were secretly aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, proving that even potential right-wing allies are not safe from his vitriol. Gaffney’s evidence was predictably flimsy – board member and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist’s wife is Palestinian-American, while board member Suhail Khan is a Muslim. Both were political appointees in the George W. Bush administration with long experience in conservative Republican Party affairs. Calling the accusations reprehensible, CPAC banned Gaffney from participating in future events. [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 12/7/15]

Gaffney Called For End To Muslim Migration To America After Paris Terror Attacks. Right Wing Watch reported that Gaffney called for “a moratorium on Muslim migration” into America after the November terrorist attacks in Paris, France. [Right Wing Watch, 11/16/15]

Gaffney Baselessly Claimed “Muslim Brotherhood Front Organizations” Have “Intensive Influence” On U.S. Government’s View Of Muslims. During the January 31, 2011 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson discussed protests in Egypt with Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy. After talking about the possible extent of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the Egyptian protests, Gaffney went on to suggest that “councils of the United States government … have been subjected to intensive influence operations by known Muslim Brotherhood front organizations in this country to believe that these guys are somehow nonviolent.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/31/11]

Gaffney: Obama Has “Exhibited A Sympathy” For Muslim Brotherhood Agenda. On the August 23, 2010 edition of Glenn Beck’s former Fox News show, Gaffney told the host: “I think this administration has exhibited a sympathy, and the president particularly, a sympathy for the agenda of folks who are, in fact, under one front organization or another of the Muslim Brotherhood, seeking to promote Sharia in America.” [Media Matters, 1/31/11]

Gaffney: Muslims Practicing Sharia In America Should Be Prosecuted For Sedition. In March 2011, Gaffney claimed that Sharia is “absolutely antithetical” to the U.S. Constitution and any American Muslims pursuing it are guilty of sedition:

FRANK GAFFNEY: It is the law of the land in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and anyone who thinks that life is like in either of those two countries is the same as life in America obviously doesn’t nothing about Saudi Arabia or Iran. In fact, it is absolutely antithetical, Sharia is, to our Constitution, and the pursuit of it you said in your comment is incompatible with the Constitution’s Article VI, and therefore being a protected religious practice, it is an impermissible act of sedition, which has to be prosecuted under our Constitution. [Right Wing Watch, 3/14/11]

Center for American Progress: Gaffney Sees Mosques In America As “Trojan Horses.” According to the Center for American Progress’ (CAP) 2011 report “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” Gaffney views mosques as “Trojan Horses” that are “used by Muslims to promote ‘sedition.'” From the report:

Mosques, like churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship, are constitutionally protected houses of worship in America, but Gaffney sees them as “Trojan horses” used by Muslims to promote “sedition.” He then conflates mosques with the Park51 community center in New York City, declaring on Fox News that it is a “mosque that is used to promote a seditious program, which is what Sharia is… that is not a protected religious practice, that is in fact sedition.” And then CSP almost simultaneously created and funded official website of the Coalition to Honor Ground Zero and a who’s who of radical right-wing leaders, organizations, and notable anti-Muslim advocates.

These allies working through were responsible for manufacturing the 2010 hysteria around the construction of the Park51 community center. The website repeats many of Gaffney’s unsubstantiated claims about “stealth jihad,” the “imposition of Sharia law,” and the proliferation of “radical mosques.”

In 2010, Gaffney also carried his anti-mosque campaign to Tennessee, where he testified against the construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro. “I’m here to warn this community of seditious acts of Sharia Law,” Gaffney told a local court. “I have not determined this is happening here, but that it is present in mosques like this.” He further testified that 80 percent of mosques in America are financed by allies of the Muslim Brotherhood, a claim that has been readily debunked by academic experts. [Center for American Progress, Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, 8/11/15]

The Center for Security Policy “Echo the Tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy”

Center For American Progress: Center For Security Policy’s Accusations Against Muslims “Echo The Tactics Of Sen. Joseph McCarthy In The 1950s.” The Center for American Progress wrote in its 2011 report “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” explained how Gaffney and his Center for Security Policy operates to spread fear of Muslims:

Gaffney and CSP use this money to promote an increasingly paranoid misrepresentation of the threats posed by Islam in America. The baseless accusations peddled by Gaffney and his think tank echo the tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, who claimed that communists had thoroughly infiltrated the federal government of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. But Gaffney’s tactics take a page from the radical religious right as well, conflating all of the followers of a non-Christian religion as enemies of the state and society and then providing talking points that marry the two nonexistent threats. Anders Breivik, the confessed Norway terrorist, cited Gaffney and CSP seven times in his manifesto.

Several examples of how Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy develop and deploy their incorrect academic research using the foundation’s money to spread an increasingly shrill message of hate and fear prove these points.


[H]e is one of the lead engineers of the “anti-Sharia” movement sweeping the nation. His think tank released the 2010 report “Shariah: The Threat to America,” which reframed Sharia, or Islamic religious law followed by any practicing Muslim, as a “totalitarian ideology” and “legal-political-military doctrine.”

The American Civil Liberties Union summed up this nonexistent threat best in its concise, six-page report, “Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical ‘Sharia Threat’ to Our Judicial System,” in which it states that these claims of a Sharia infiltration are “wrong” and “based both on misinformation and a misunderstanding of how our judicial system works.” The report adds, “There is no evidence that Islamic law is encroaching on our courts. On the contrary, the court cases cited by anti-Muslim groups as purportedly illustrative of this problem actually show the opposite: Courts treat lawsuits that are brought by Muslims or that address the Islamic faith in the same way that they deal with similar claims brought by people of other faiths or that involve no religion at all.” The ACLU report points to the insidious purpose behind the crusade to ban Sharia: “Prohibiting [U.S.] courts from considering Islamic law serves only one purpose: to bar Muslims from having the same rights and access to the courts as any other religious individuals.”

Gaffney’s Sharia report also erroneously suggests that every practicing Muslim engages in “taqiyya,” which CSP incorrectly defines as religiously mandated lying. This assertion suggests all practicing Muslims as unreliable and potential threats to America. In fact, taqiyya is an Arabic word that means concealing one’s faith out of fear of death and is practiced by only a minority of Muslims. This practice equips Muslims past and present with a faithful “precautionary denial of religious belief in the face of potential persecution.” [Center for American Progress, Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, 8/11/15]

Southern Poverty Law Center: Center For Security Policy “Issues Alarming ‘Investigative’ Reports” To “Reinforce Gaffney’s Delusions” About Muslim Threats To America. The SPLC explained how Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy reinforces his hate-filled claims:

To reinforce Gaffney’s delusions, the Center for Security Policy issues alarming “investigative” reports. One of the latest is a 10-part video course hosted by Gaffney entitled “The Muslim Brotherhood in America,” which concludes: “America faces in addition to the threat of violent jihad another, even more toxic danger – a stealthy and pre-violent form of warfare aimed at destroying our constitutional form of democratic government and free society. The Muslim Brotherhood is the prime-mover behind this seditious campaign, which it calls ‘civilization jihad’.”

CSP also distributes what it calls “Occasional Papers,” which offer a revealing window into the breadth of Gaffney’s obsessions. It was in one of these reports that Gaffney leveled his infamous charges against Huma Abedin, the Hillary Clinton aide. Another paper, titled “Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases” purports to prove “that Shariah law has entered into state court decisions, in conflict with the Constitution and state public policy,” using a small sample of published cases as evidence.

In 2009, another dubious CSP report alleged that an “Iran Lobby” operating in Washington, D.C., was influencing U.S. policy through a network of shady operatives and prominent politicos. The report said that “in one way or another” U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and Dennis Ross, then the special advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were among those associated with the Iran Lobby. In fact, the Iran Lobby was essentially a fabrication. [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 12/7/15]

Experts on Islamophobia Explain Why Gaffney’s Poll, Cited by Trump, “Should Not Be Taken Seriously”

Center For Security Policy Poll Pushes False Statistics And Used Questionable Methodology. On July 7, Nathan Lean and Jordan Denari, both experts on Islamophobia, explained the questionable nature of the Center for Security Policy’s poll on Muslims that Donald Trump cited in his demand to bar entry for Muslims into America (emphasis original):

The Center for Security Policy (CSP), a Washington, D.C. think tank run by former Reagan official Frank Gaffney, just released a survey of 600 Muslims living in the United States. Its takeaway, captured in a headline on the CSP website, is this: “Poll of U.S. Muslims Reveals Ominous Levels of Support For Islamic Supremacists’ Doctrine of Shariah, Jihad.”


But this survey should not be taken seriously. It comes from an organization with a history of producing dubious claims and “studies” about the threat of shariah, and was administered using an unreliable methodology. Its proponents seize upon its shoddy findings, exaggerating and misrepresenting them to American audiences, and falsely claim that the survey data represents the views of Muslims nationwide.


Both Gaffney and O’Reilly claim that the poll’s findings are representative of nationwide Muslim public opinion. But this assertion is untrue.

CSP’s survey was a non-probability based, opt-in online survey, administered by the conservative group the Polling Company/Woman Trend, a small Washington-based agency that has collaborated with CSP on other occasions to produce surveys about Islam and Muslims. (We learned this after reaching out to the Polling Company to get more details about their methodology, which wasn’t released to the public when Gaffney began promoting the survey’s findings.)

According to the body that sets ethical standards for polling, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), opt-in surveys cannot be considered representative of the intended population, in this case Muslims. The AAPOR says that in these cases, “the pollster has no idea who is responding to the question” and that these kind of “polls do not have such a ‘grounded statistical tie’ to the population.”

So when O’Reilly and guest Zuhdi Jasser pointed to this survey and made claims about what “25% of three million, which is hundreds of thousands of Muslims” believe, it’s not only a misleading statement – it’s outright false.

This survey does not represent the views of American Muslims. It only represents the views of the 600 Muslims that it polled. [Huffington Post, 7/7/15]

UPDATE: Gaffney Defends Trump’s Call to Ban Muslims From Entering America

Right Wing Watch: Gaffney Applauds Trump For Citing His Flawed Poll, Adds: “We Have Called … For A Moratorium On The Introduction Of Still More Muslims.” On December 8, Right Wing Watch reported that Frank Gaffney appeared on’s Sirius XM radio show to defend Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.:

FRANK GAFFNEY: The other thing that he picked up on was that 51 percent of them said that the practice of Sharia in America, the use of this brutally repressive totalitarian system should be something that is an option for Muslims in this country. And, you know, I don’t think anybody is saying that that’s the view of all Muslims, we certainly aren’t in a position on the basis of the methodology of a poll like this to say those are representative samples of the Muslim population in America writ large. It’s just an insight into how the Muslims we polled felt, and it’s worrisome.

And fortunately, Donald Trump – like you, I’m not endorsing him, I’m not speaking of his fitness – I’m just saying that in response to events that have taken place in this country and elsewhere in recent months has recognized what I think most Americans recognize, that we don’t actually want more jihadists in this country. If those numbers are representative, that’s plenty. We surely don’t think augmenting them willy-nilly in the name of some kind of sense that they are entitled to come here is a sound policy. And so, you know, we have called, as have others, for a moratorium on the introduction of still more Muslims, particularly from countries with a tradition of Islamic supremacism until we have a basis upon which to evaluate, effectively, accurately, whether they are actual or potential [jihadists]. [Right Wing Watch, 12/8/15]