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Factsheet: Jon Kyl

Published on 17 Sep 2018

IMPACT: Jon Kyl recently returned to the U.S. Senate, filling the seat of deceased Senator John McCain. Kyl is closely associated with anti-Muslim organizations and individuals. He also used his platform in the Senate to sponsor War on Terror legislation, and held multiple hearings that coupled terrorism to Islam.

On September 4th, 2018, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed Jon Kyl to serve McCain’s Senate seat until an election is held in 2020. On September 5th, Kyl was sworn in.

Kyl served in the U.S. Congress for 26 years. From 1987 to 1994 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and from 1995 to 2012 he served in the U.S. Senate. During his tenure as a Senator, Kyl chaired the Senate Republican Policy Committee and the Senate Republican Conference. In 2008, Kyl became the Senate Republican Whip, the second highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. Congress.

In September 2003, while Kyl was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, he held a hearing called, “Two Years After 9/11: Connecting the Dots.” The hearing included testimony from Matthew Esptein, who then worked for the anti- Muslim organization the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Kyl additionally held Senate hearings in June 2003 entitled “Terrorism: Growing Wahhabi Influence in the United States,” and in October 2003 entitled “Terrorism: Radical Islamic Influence of Chaplaincy of the U.S. Military and Prisons.” Kyl also introduced and co-sponsored numerous pro-War on Terror bills.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Kyl has a “history of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions.” Kyl has made sweeping generalizations about Palestinians, using language such as the “persistence of Arab rejectionism” and “Arab inflexibility.”

In March 2011, just a few weeks after the Islamophobic “Muslim radicalization” hearings were held, led by Rep. Peter King (NY), the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human
Rights held a hearing entitled “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims.” Commenting on the hearing, then-Senator Kyl said, “I’m a bit perplexed by the focus on today’s hearing. If we’re concerned about the most egregious religious hate crimes, then I wonder why we’re not talking about crimes against Jews and Christians.” He later said, “Selective indignation is not helpful.”

In September 2009, U.S. Representative Trent Franks, U.S. Representative John Shadegg, and U.S. Senator Jon Kyl wrote a letter to U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim Member of Congress, asking
Ellison to “reconsider speaking” at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) Arizona chapter fundraiser. In the letter, Kyl, Franks, and Shadegg accused CAIR of having ties to foreign terrorist organizations, citing US v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, et al. Kyl, Franks, and Shadegg also advised Ellison to “take the time to meet with [American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD)] to learn more about what they are doing to support freedom and democracy.” AIFD was founded by Zuhdi Jasser, whom the Center for American Progress (CAP) describes as a “validator” in the “Islamophobia network.”

According to reporting in March and July 2006 in Slate, Kyl and Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) attempted to mislead the U.S. Supreme Court as it concerned Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case named for plaintiff Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni national who had been subjected to forced rendition and imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the military commissions initially authorized by then-President George W. Bush were unlawful.

In February 2009, then-Senator Kyl invited Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician who espouses racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic views, to the U.S. Congress to screen the Islamophobic film Fitna. The Center for Security Policy (CSP), an anti-Muslim organization headed by Frank Gaffney, and the International Free Press Society, an Islamophobic Dutch organization, sponsored the film screening.

Kyl has long-standing ties with CSP. In 1994, CSP awarded then-Senator Kyl its fifth annual “Keeper of the Flame” award. In 2012, CSP awarded Kyl a “second-degree Keeper of the Flame,” with accompanying tributes by then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH). Kyl has also taken part in many of CSP’s annual “Keeper of the Flame” award ceremonies by introducing the award winners, including in 1999 (which included a surprise award for Gaffney himself); in 2007 for then-Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT) and six “Defenders of the Home Front” honorees, including then-FBI special agent John Guandolo and Zuhdi Jasser; in 2011 to Rep. Buck McKeon (CA); in 2015 to then-Senator Jeff Sessions.

According to a July 2010 article in Breitbart, Kyl appeared on Secure Freedom Radio with Gaffney, criticizing then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan for the Islamic Finance Portal (IFP) that was established at Harvard Law School while she was Dean. Kyl remarked: “It is a short step from the whole Shariah Financing concept into deeper reliance on Shariah law, which would be antithetical to everything we in the West and, specifically, in the United States, believe in.”

Kyl also has ties with David Horowitz, whom CAP describes as a “misinformation expert” in the “Islamophobia network,” and the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC), a leading anti-Muslim organization in the U.S. In May 2010, Kyl delivered a speech at the DHFC Santa Barbara Retreat, and in August 2010, Kyl paid tribute to Horowitz for Horowitz’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Young America’s Foundation. In July 2012, CSP and DHFC established a joint lecture program named for Kyl and former Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, entitled the Henry M. (Scoop) Jackson and aJon Kyl Lecture on National Security.

After retiring from the U.S. Congress in 2012, Kyl took on a new job in Washington, D.C., as a lawyer for lobbyist group Covington & Burling. In March 2013, Kyl joined the American Enterprise Institute as a Visiting Fellow to lead the American Internationalism Project, housed under the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies.

In May 2018, Facebook announced that it would be conducting a civil rights audit and a political bias audit. The political bias audit was led by Kyl with his team at Covington & Burling. According to reporting in VICE News, “Kyl is associated with the very same anti-Muslim groups the civil rights advocates have flagged (unsuccessfully) for Facebook to remove.” Kyl left the audit to return to the U.S. Senate.

Last updated September 21, 2018