Jeff Sessions Defends Anti-Muslim Extremist David Horowitz, Calling Him 'Brilliant'
On the first day of his attorney general confirmation hearing, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama vigorously defended his association with David Horowitz, the far-right extremist termed “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) prodded Sessions, who was deemed too racist to serve as a federal judge under former President Ronald Reagan, about his ties to the anti-Muslim activist.
“In 2003, at an event called Restoration Weekend, you gave a speech praising a man named David Horowitz as ‘a man I admire,’” noted Blumenthal at the hearing. “David Horowitz has said, among other things, that ‘all the major Muslim organizations in America are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood’ and ‘80 percent of the mosques are filled with hate against Jews and Americans.’ He’s also made a number of statements against African Americans, as in ‘too many blacks are in prison because too many black commit crimes.’”
Sessions responded by stating that he is not embarrassed by his association with Horowitz and claimed that he is unaware of the comments referenced. “He’s a most brilliant individual and has a remarkable story,” Sessions said of Horowitz, adding: “I don’t believe David Horowitz is a racist or a person that would treat anyone improperly, at least to my knowledge.”
Sessions’ claim that he is unaware of Horowitz’s racist statements is questionable, given his long-term association with the individual and his extremist think tank, the Freedom Center. Sessions participated in Freedom Center events in 2014, 2013, 2010, 2008 and 2003. As the keynote speaker for the Freedom Center’s 2013 West Coast retreat, Sessions personally thanked Horowitz for his "profound contribution to the conservative movement.”
During his confirmation hearing, Sessions praised Horowitz’s “brilliant book,” Radical Son, for outlining his “transformation, having grown up in a, as he describes it, communist family.” Sessions added, “It was a really powerful and moving story of how he moved from the unprincipled, totalitarian radical left to a more traditional American person.”
This statement is in line with Sessions’ longstanding track record of employing red-baiting language to demonize progressive and left social movements. As far back as 1986, Former Justice Department civil rights lawyer J. Gerald Hebert testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Sessions had called the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”
Sessions has a troubling history of associating with far-right, anti-Muslim think tanks and figures that extends beyond Horowitz. In October 2015, Sessions was granted the “Keeper of the Flame award by the Center for Security Policy (CSP), the think tank that produced the shoddy research behind Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims. CSP is headed by Frank Gaffney, a prominent anti-Muslim activist behind numerous conspiracy theories of a “Muslim Brotherhood” takeover of the U.S. government.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Sessions—along with Trump transition team leader Kris Kobach—regularly attends events hosted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The organization is supported by the Pioneer Fund, which was founded in 1937 by the prominent eugenicist and textile magnate Wickliffe Draper for the purpose of “race betterment.” The SPLC has classified FAIR as a hate group since 2007.
One of the most right-wing members of the Senate, Sessions has a long career track record of opposing civil rights. In the 1984 case now known as the Marion Three, he prosecuted three civil rights workers on baseless charges of voter fraud, and all them were acquitted. More recently, he threw his support behind the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to gut the Voting Rights Act.
Sessions has backed harsh anti-immigrant laws, including Alabama’s draconian HB56, described by the ACLU as “an extraordinary attempt to regulate every aspect of the lives of immigrants.” He has been a vocal supporter of torture and a fierce opponent of civil rights protections for women and LGBTQ people. Sessions’ nomination has provoked outrage and protest across the country, including a recent sit-in at his Mobile, Alabama office that was led by the NAACP.