The White House has come out strongly in support of recently appointed Chief of Staff of the National Security Advisor Fred Fleitz whose views on radical Islam have sparked controversy in the past. Fleitz, National security adviser John Bolton’s new chief of staff, has drawn scrutiny for his past work with the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think-tank, that has been accused of promoting anti-Muslim messages.
Fleitz, who joined the National Security Council this week, was an outspoken opponent of the Iran nuclear deal when he worked as the senior vice president for policy at the think tank led by Frank Gaffney, whose views on Islam and theories about the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence have sparked controversy, CNN reported.
“The attacks on Fred Fleitz as an Islamophobe are another attempt by some to paint the Trump administration with a broad anti-Muslim brush,” a spokesman of the National Security Council, White House, told PTI.
The spokesman was responding to allegations of groups like Anti-Defamation League, Council on American-Islamic Relations and Southern Policy Law Center, that Fleitz in the past has had advanced Islamophobic views and as such he should not serve in this position.
“Fred Fleitz supports the President’s national security and foreign policies. He supervises a transparent, interagency process to present information and coordinate the presentation of policy options for the President and his National Security Council,” the spokesman said.
“The implication that he is in a position to promote a personal agenda is uninformed and scurrilous. The suggestion that Ambassador Bolton is convening an anti-Muslim cabal is untrue and despicable,” the spokesman said, responding to media reports in this regard.
The Center for Security Policy has raised concerns over Fleitz’s appointment among a number of advocacy groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, the report had said. “Fleitz will now be in a position to do serious harm to our national security as he pushes an extreme anti-Muslim agenda,” the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement.
The White House slammed the Southern Poverty Law Center, describing it as a group that has over the last few years put out press releases falsely lumping American conservatives with neo-nazis and white supremacists. National Review wrote a strong piece on the SPLC in 2016 titled ‘Everyone Who Disagrees with the SPLC Is Hitler’, the official pointed out.
“Fleitz earned the SPLC’s ire because he wrote two articles condemning it and drawing attention to its huge off-shore bank accounts,” the spokesman said.
In an op-ed published by Fox News on August 29, 2017, Fleitz said: “The Southern Poverty Law Center is a left-wing smear machine that tries to denigrate conservative individuals and organizations by lumping them together with white nationalists, KKK members and neo-Nazis on so-called hate lists”.
Targeting conservatives as haters has been very profitable for the SPLC, he then alleged.
The NSC spokesman said the media should acknowledge the attacks on Fleitz for what they are, instead of giving voice to organisations with an ideological axe to grind and a history of making “inflammatory and bigoted statements against those who express ideas they don’t agree with”. “Fleitz stands by his criticism of radical Islam as a global movement at war with modern society. He notes that radical Islam is a greater threat to the vast majority of the world’s Muslims who are peaceful,” the official said.
According to the NSC spokesman, Fleitz is a strong supporter of Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser is a former Navy medic who wants to reform Islam to bring it into conformity with modernity.
“He believes radical Islam is a war within the house of Islam. Fleitz agrees and has expressed his support for Jasser in articles and TV interviews,” the official said.