A Thursday night event featuring anti-Muslim commentator Frank Gaffney and sponsored by the Chevy Chase Women’s Republican Club at Kenwood Golf & Country Club in Bethesda has been canceled, according to two employees at the country club.
The cancelation came shortly after multiple advocacy groups including the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced they planned to protest Gaffney’s appearance outside the club.
It’s unclear if the Republican group will try to move the “just desserts” event elsewhere. A club member who was accepting RSVPs for the event did not immediately return a voicemail left Wednesday by Bethesda Beat.
A screenshot with information about the event via the Chevy Chase Women’s Republican Club website
Gaffney is a right-wing commentator who for more than two decades has espoused anti-Muslim sentiments after founding the foreign policy think tank Center for Security Policy. He has promoted conspiracy theories such as suggesting former President Barack Obama is a covert Muslim. And his group once put out a questionable survey that then-President-elect Donald Trump cited in November as support for his Muslim ban proposal.
Gaffney is not an adviser to Trump, but his critics say he still has the ability to influence the president.
“His flawed, biased research is being used to justify discriminatory policies against religious minorities and immigrants,” Zainab Chaudry, a spokeswoman for CAIR, said Wednesday.
Bethesda Beat spoke with Chaudry before the event was canceled at the country club. At the time, the group was planning for protesters to line River Road in front of the club Thursday evening. After the event at the club was canceled, CAIR also dropped its plans to protest at the club.
The event featuring Gaffney was scheduled to take place from 7 to 10 p.m. at the club.
“We’re pleased that Frank Gaffney won’t be spreading hate in Bethesda,” Sue Udry, a co-founder of the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, said Wednesday shortly after being told the event would no longer take place at the country club.
She said her concerns with Gaffney involved his attempts to deny civil liberties to Muslims in the U.S. and around the world. The coalition’s members had encouraged supporters to call the country club to share their concerns about Gaffney speaking there.
Gaffney did not immediately return a voicemail left Wednesday with the Center for Security Policy’s press line.
Gaffney has been labelled an “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which describes him as “one of America’s most notorious Islamaphobes.”
The center, which monitors hate groups, describes Gaffney as someone who believes “creeping Shariah” or Islamic law is a “dire threat to American democracy.”
Gaffney continues to maintain significant influence, particularly in the burgeoning alt-right sphere of politics.
On Wednesday morning, the Breitbart News website featured a story about the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with several quotes from Gaffney on the top of its page. In the article, Gaffney is quoted as saying he believes the “deep state” of American intelligence services “is being encouraged by The Washington Post and others to use encrypted techniques to reveal information.” Gaffney also said he believes the agencies are trying to “put the worst possible gloss” on the recordings.
One such recording between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was cited by the Post as the primary reason Flynn resigned from his role this week.
Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon is the former executive chair of Breitbart News.