NEW YORK • Senator Ted Cruz has come under fire after unveiling a list of national security advisers that includes Mr Frank Gaffney, a former member of the Reagan administration who is now best known for holding extreme views on Islam.
Mr Gaffney was introduced as part of a coalition of experts that will offer Mr Cruz counsel on foreign policy. Some of the others - including Mr Elliott Abrams, who served in both the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations and is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Ms Mary Habeck, another former Bush adviser - have been critical of anti-Islamic rhetoric.
The inclusion of Mr Gaffney, who once wrote an op-ed in The Washington Times suggesting that President Barack Obama was Muslim, raised eyebrows among many who consider him to be a fringe conspiracy theorist.
"It's a terrible mistake for anyone to seek advice from Frank Gaffney on matters of foreign policy or much of anything else for that matter," said Mr Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Centre. "His world is one of conspiracy, where the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the highest reaches of our government and our country is on the verge of adopting syariah law."
The announcement came as Mr Cruz is desperately trying to make up ground against Mr Donald Trump in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Mr Trump has yet to reveal who advises him on foreign policy, claiming this week that "I'm speaking to myself" on the subject.
In tapping Mr Gaffney, who now runs the Centre for Security Policy think-tank, Mr Cruz is utilising the same expert whom Mr Trump cited when proposing a moratorium on Muslim immigration.
Mr Gaffney was respected for his foreign policy views in the 1980s when he rose to a senior position in president Ronald Reagan's Defence Department. More recently, however, he has been shunned for adopting what some have called extremist positions. In 2010 he mused that the Obama administration might have morphed Mr Obama's campaign logo with an Islamic crescent to create a new logo for the Missile Defence Agency.
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS