Fox News “Report” Targets Group Led by McConnell Staffer

This morning Fox News published a breathless report—based largely on the “reporting” of Patrick Poole, a self-styled “terrorism analyst” whose writings have appeared in conspiracy-minded publications like Front Page magazine—which asserted that the Congressional Muslim Staff Association has hosted speakers at its meetings who have “terror ties.” A similar report, written by Poole, who also claims to be “an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military,” first appeared last month at the conservative blog Pajamas Media, where he is a regular contributor.

The Congressional Muslim Staffers Association—like other similar organizations on the Hill—is officially sanctioned by Congress. Its vice-president, Moon Sulfab, is a systems administrator on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s staff. The group’s president, Assad Akhter, said its officers could not comment on the Fox report.

Within hours of the report, the American Center for Law and Justice issued a call for the Department of Justice to investigate this alleged “new threat to our national security.” The ACLJ, a right-wing Christian legal group founded by Pat Robertson and run by Republican powerbroker Jay Sekulow, threatened that it is mobilizing its “National Security Legal Team,” and that supporters should “join our nationwide campaign demanding that the Department of Justice step in and not only call an immediate halt to these meetings—but also conduct a thorough investigation, so that those found responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Like other conservative claims that terrorist sympathizers have infiltrated the halls of our government, such as the Republican-authored book, Muslim Mafia, the Fox report is largely guilt-by-association, conspiratorial claims. It’s the sort of red meat that resonates in the conservative culture that feeds on paranoia over a Muslim fifth column out to subvert the U.S. government.

But will Minority Leader McConnell buy into the Fox panic, or will he bring some reason to bear to the conservative base’s Islamophobia? Will he feign concern that his very office—his computer system—is manned by someone who belongs to a group that hosts terrorist sympathizers? I’ve asked McConnell’s office for his reaction, and am awaiting a reply.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email