Another anti-Muslim group has scheduled a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, prompting the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group to again ask the Trump Organization to cancel an event sponsored by such a group.
The Center for Security Policy, a Washington, D.C.. think tank whose founder, Frank Gaffney, once suggested President Barack Obama was a Muslim and that Sharia law threatens American society, intends to host its annual Flame Dinner at Mar-a-Lago on Nov. 23. Tickets for the event start at $650, according to the Center’s website.
Fred Fleitz, the center’s president and CEO, said the group was not deterred by the Trump Organization’s abrupt decision Oct. 6 to cancel an event hosted by another anti-Muslim group, ACT for America, after news of that group’s dinner plans grabbed national headlines and drew widespread criticism.
"We are honored to have this event at Mar-a-Lago," said Fleitz, adding that he has dined at the club many times.
Reaction from the the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, was swift.
"The Trump Organization made the right decision to cancel a previous event hosted by an anti-Muslim hate group, and we call them to do so again," said Robert McCaw, CAIR’s government affairs director. "The president of the United States should not profit from a group that makes its money by demonizing an entire faith and whose founder traffics in widely debunked conspiracy theories, including that former President Obama is Muslim and that mosques want to destroy Western civilization from within."
The Center for Security Policy has been criticized by groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which claims the center promotes anti-Muslim conspiracies, including the view that Muslims have infiltrated the government.
The SPLC, a civil rights organization that researches and identifies groups it considers the radical right, is widely disparaged by conservative activists, some who have sued the group for defamation.
A spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled both the Center for Security Policy and ACT for America hate groups, said she was shocked to learn that another anti-Muslim group had scheduled an event at Mar-a-Lago..
"This is a group the president should be denouncing, not allowing in his facility," said Heidi Beirich, director of the project that tracks hate groups at the SPLC.
Fleitz said accusations that the center is anti-Muslim are "outrageous." Although it opposes "radical Islam," Fleitz said the group works with Muslims to combat terrorism.
Fleitz, who served as chief of staff for former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, became head of the center in January. Since then, Fleitz said he has been working to dispel the center’s hate-group image.
Other Trump administration officials with ties to the center include Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, and Charles Kupperman, former deputy national security adviser who served briefy as acting national security adviser after the resignation of John Bolton. Kupperman served on the center’s board.
At this year’s dinner the center’s Keeper of the Flame Award will be given to the House Freedom Caucus, according to the website.
The caucus is a group of hard-line GOP House members who use hardball legislative tactics to push the party’s agenda further to the right. Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was a founding member of the group.