President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to name Monica Crowley to lead communications for the National Security Council (NSC) has resulted in a plagiarism scandal for the Fox News personality and Washington Times columnist. A CNN review of her columns for the Times revealed at least seven instances of plagiarism. Politico found that she also plagiarized sections of her PhD dissertation for Columbia University. And HarperCollins announced that it is suspending sales of Crowley’s 2012 book, What the (Bleep) Just Happened? in response to a CNN report that the book contained more than 50 examples of plagiarism.
Crowley is a controversial pick for the top communications post at the NSC for reasons that go beyond her serial plagiarism. Video and audio recordings reviewed by LobeLog show Crowley effusively praising anti-Muslim advocates Frank Gaffney, Andrew McCarthy, and Steve Emerson, and espousing a fringe conspiracy theory about “Islamist infiltration in the U.S.”
Crowley made a career out of criticizing the Obama administration’s foreign policy—particularly its efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic means—and providing hawkish soundbites on Fox News. In 2015, she even went so far as assert that a “President Crowley” would have conducted an “airborne military strike” on Iran’s nuclear facilities “years ago,” a move almost certain to spark retaliation by Tehran against U.S. targets, including U.S. troops in Iraq, or against neighboring countries allied with Washington.
Her casual attitude toward a destabilizing war might be partly informed by her choice of role models and associates who espouse a paranoid worldview filled with Islamist conspiracies designed to undermine the United States.
In CSP’s Orbit
In 2012, the Center for Security Policy (CSP), an anti-Muslim think tank whose research Donald Trump cited in his plan to ban all Muslim immigration to the U.S., gave Crowley its Mightier Pen award. Crowley offered kind words for Islamophobic advocate Frank Gaffney, who heads up CSP. She praised The Investigative Project on Terrorism’s Steve Emerson, who famously spread unsubstantiated allegations of Middle Eastern connections to both the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings in live television interviews shortly after the attacks. And she lauded Andrew McCarthy, a key advocate of the conspiracy theory that Muslims here are trying to supplant the U.S. Constitution with “totalitarian” Sharia law.
Crowley told the audience:
Andy, God bless you, you are such a dear personal friend of mine and you are such a hero to this republic. Andy McCarthy was one of very few voices, pre-9/11, after 9/11 everyone’s attention was really focused on radical Islam and the fact that we are in the crosshairs of radical Islam, which not a lot of people were focused on before the September 11thattacks. Andy McCarthy was one of those voices in the wilderness. Frank Gaffney, Steve Emerson, a few others, but they were lonely out there.
Crowley went on to praise Gaffney’s role in advocating for the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, concluding:
Frank is to be commended and honored for his single-minded focus and total dedication to this nation’s security. He is often a one-man band. He’s often attacked in the most grotesque and vicious ways. And he’s also a voice in the wilderness. But he’s always right and he’s always vindicated.
But Gaffney’s track record is far from pristine.
In 2015, Donald Trump pointed to a CSP-sponsored poll that allegedly showed that “25% of [American Muslims] agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad” and 51%, “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.”
The poll, cited by Trump as justification for a proposed immigration ban, was an online opt-in survey of 600 Muslims, a fact that Gaffney’s organization did not initially disclose.
The American Association for Public Opinion Research, which sets ethical standards for pollsters, has denounced opt-in surveys as deeply flawed. “The pollster has no idea who is responding to the question,” it warned, noting that such surveys lack a “‘grounded statistical tie’ to the population. As a result, estimates from self-selected volunteers are subject to unknown error that cannot be measured.”
Gaffney has a well-established track record of pushing alarmist and misleading accusations about Muslims and their beliefs.
In 2008, he used a column in the Washington Times to question whether Obama “is a natural born citizen of the United States” and claimed “there is evidence Mr. Obama was born in Kenya rather than, as he claims, Hawaii.”
Neither Frank Gaffney nor Donald Trump, who made a similar claim but renounced it during last year’s presidential campaign, has ever produced any evidence to support that assertion.
Gaffney also repeatedly spread baseless claims that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was a Muslim Brotherhood operative. He also asserted in a 2010 Breitbart column that the Missile Defense Agency logo “appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo,” part of what he described as a “worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam.”
His stream of claims about Muslim infiltration of various U.S. institutions have been denounced by the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the American Conservative Union, among others.
Crowley and Gaffney
Crowley, for her part, maintained a chummy relationship with Gaffney, appearing on his radio show, Secure Freedom Radio, at least ten times between 2010 and 2013.
In an August 2012 appearance, she embraced one of Gaffney’s central conspiracy theories—that there is an Islamist infiltration underway at the highest levels of the U.S. government. She offered her thoughts on how she would advise then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
She told Gaffney [my emphasis]:
Simultaneously in addition to focusing on the economy, focus on the grave national security threats we are facing both abroad and at home thanks to this president. And I would argue that he should take on the issue, Frank, that you have been on the forefront of for many, many years now, which is the Muslim infiltration by the Islamists here in the United States through the Muslim Brotherhood and their associated front groups here in the United States such as [the Council on American Islamic Relations]….
None of the [domestic policy issues] matter if we are all dead. Now that sounds a little bit like hyperbole but actually, Frank, given the nature of the threats we face from Iran with a nuclear weapon to the Islamist infiltration here in the United States, it’s really not that far off the mark. We are being destroyed from within, and he should have the courage to make that argument.
Listen to her, beginning eight minutes into the recording:
In fact, Iran did not have a nuclear weapon in 2012, nor did it obtain one in the following four years; nor is there evidence of an “Islamist infiltration” of the kind she describes. But Crowley’s aspersions against Muslim-Americans and embrace of conspiracy theories may have launched her into the political orbit surrounding Trump and his national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.), who are now rewarding her with a post at the NSC.
How credible she will be, given her record of plagiarism, conspiracy-propagation, and Islamophobia, remains to be seen.