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Ted Cruz asked about his controversial adviser
01:40 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Cruz defends Gaffney as a "serious thinker," won't comment on past statements

The Southern Poverty Law Center added Gaffney's group to its "hate list"

CNN  — 

Ted Cruz on Monday night defended his decision to include an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist on his foreign policy team.

“Frank Gaffney is a serious thinker who has been focused on fighting jidahists, fighting jihadism across the globe,” Cruz said of the Center for Security Policy founder.

The Southern Poverty Law Center added Gaffney’s group to its “hate list” in 2016 and calls the former member of President Ronald Reagan’s Defense Department “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.”

Pressed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during their “Final Five” interview, Cruz repeatedly dismissed questions about Gaffney’s past statements, including a theory that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was “involved” in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

In a 2009 article, Gaffney suggested that Barack Obama had become “America’s first Muslim president.”

“I’m not interested in playing the media ‘gotcha game’ of ‘here’s every quote everyone who’s supporting you has ever said at any point, do you agree with every statement?’” Cruz said on Monday. “That’s silliness.”

Frank Gaffney testifies at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committeein 2013.

In December, Donald Trump introduced his proposed ban on the immigration of Muslims into the U.S. by citing a dubious online poll conducted by Gaffney’s group.

That survey found “a majority (51%)” of Muslims living in the U.S. believe they “should have the choice of being governed according to (Sharia).”

“He’s accused a Hillary Clinton adviser (Huma Abedin) of being a secret agent of the Muslim Brotherhood, he’s claimed (anti-tax activist) Grover Norquist is a secret agent, he believes all kinds of conspiracy theories, he’s a birther,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told CNN at the time. “It’s really, really troubling.”