Factsheet: Andrew McCarthy
IMPACT: Andrew McCarthy, who has served as an advisor to leading Republican politicians like Ted Cruz, has worked with anti-Muslim groups like the Center for Security Policy and the David Horowitz Freedom Center to advance falsified and unfounded claims about Muslims. He has also advocated for discriminatory practices that would target Muslim communities.
Andrew C. McCarthy III is a contributing editor of National Review Online (NRO) magazine and a senior fellow at the affiliated National Review Institute. The Center for American Progress (CAP) identifies the NRO, a conservative political commentary magazine, as part of the “echo chamber” of the “Islamophobia network.”
McCarthy is the author of four books, among them a New York Times bestseller, on the topic of Islam and Muslims, including titles How Obama Embraces Islam’s Sharia Agenda and The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.
McCarthy is also a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who led the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon described McCarthy as, “one of the leading experts in this country,” citing McCarthy’s role in terrorism prosecutions as an assistant U.S. attorney.
Like many who run anti-Muslim groups, McCarthy does not believe Islam is a religion, but an “ideological, sweeping system.” The notion that Islam is a political ideology or totalitarian regime, and not a religion, is a common anti-Muslim trope. It also carries serious potential consequences — Muslims would not be afforded the same constitutional protections as other religious communities.
McCarthy argues that laws ought to be able to “sort out” the “moderate,” “pro-Western, pro-constitutional Muslims” from “those who are adherent to the “sharia-supremacist program of imposing Islamic law on the West.” Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), credits McCarthy with coining the term “sharia supremacism.”
In 2016, McCarthy backed Senator Ted Cruz’s call for surveilling Muslim communities, saying it is an “indispensable for defeating terrorism.” He claims that there is a “straight line of causation” from “commands to jihadist violence in Islamic scripture” to the “execution of jihadist strikes.” McCarthy also argues that many mosques are “incubators of Islamic supremacism.”
In 2016, McCarthy testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Cruz, on ‘Willful Blindness: Consequences of Agency Efforts to Deemphasize Radical Islam in Combating Terrorism.’
McCarthy has advanced the claim that leading American Muslim individuals and organizations are engaged in a “grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.” This debunked claim of “civilization jihad” has been advanced by anti-Muslim groups like Frank Gaffney’s CSP.
As is a common tactic of anti-Muslim groups, McCarthy claims that the Muslim Brotherhood “dreamed up” the term Islamophobia as a “smear label.”
In a September 2009 op-ed in NRO, McCarthy wrote, “Terrorist sympathizers…have assumed positions throughout the Obama administration.” McCarthy has echoed former Senator Michele Bachmann’s unverified claims that Huma Abedin, longtime aide Hillary Clinton, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In a July 2012 op-ed on the topic, he wrote that the U.S. “aligned itself with the Muslim Brotherhood.” This claim is common among those like Frank Gaffney, Pamela Geller and others who the Center for American Progress has identified as part of the “Islamophobia network.”
In a June 2016 interview on Breitbart’s radio show, now-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon interviewed McCarthy, discussing, among other topics, the debunked notion that there are “Sharia enclaves” in Europe.
Along with Frank Gaffney and Clare Lopez, who work for the anti-Muslim group, the CSP, described by the Center for American Progress (CAP) as one of the “main organizations fueling the Islamophobia network,” McCarthy served as a national security and foreign policy advisor to Ted Cruz during his 2016 presidential campaign.
He co-authored a 2010 CSP report on “Shariah: The Threat to America,” which recommends barring those who“espouse or support shariah” from serving in the government or the armed forces, and suggested that imams and mosques that advocate for sharia in the US be prosecuted for “promoting seditious activity.” Experts documenting Islamophobia have criticized individuals like McCarthy for “misdefin[ing] sharia in a way which is not recognizable to any practicing Muslim.” Critics say that these anti-sharia laws are “a solution in search of a problem.”
McCarthy’s work has also been promoted by CSP. Many of his articles have appeared on their website and he has been a frequent guest on CSP’s radio show. He has been praised by CSP head, Frank Gaffney, as “one of the men that I admire most in our country” and “an example of what we must be if this country is to survive in a dangerous world.”
In 2012, McCarthy became Executive Director of the Philadelphia branch of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers an anti-Muslim hate group. McCarthy also writes for the center’s website, Front Page Magazine. McCarthy, along with Frank Gaffney, serves on the Advisory Board of the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), Headed by lawyers who led the campaign against sharia or “foreign law” in American courts, AFLC describes itself as the “Nation’s first truly authentic Judeo-Christian, public interest law firm” to “defend our Nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage” from “secular progressives and sharia-advocating Muslim Brotherhood interests.”
McCarthy has defended the practice of waterboarding by the CIA. Scholars have argued that the ‘global war on terror,’ of which torture has played a big part, “stems from our Islamophobia.” Torture is legally prohibited in international and U.S. constitutional laws.
Attorneys and journalists critical of McCarthy’s work have compared his rhetoric with that of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who in the 1950s led Senate hearings to investigate accused communists, traitors and spies in the U.S. government.
According to Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, McCarthy employs sophistry, “a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.”
Last updated September 7, 2017