Frank Gaffney, a former official in the Reagan administration, has distinguished himself as a leading voice for the tight-knit anti-Muslim movement among conservatives. Although Gaffney has placed us among David Petraeus and Barack Obama in his pantheon of Islam-influenced individuals, he has taken the time to sit down and chat with us on multiple occasions.
We were hoping to speak again with Gaffney at the “Preserving Freedom Conference” in Nashville, Tennessee, a gathering of other opponents of Islam, last Friday. Initially, Gaffney agreed to speak to us and said he would grant an interview after his book signing.
As we waited, several security personnel hovered around. When he finished signing the last book, Gaffney promptly stood up, and walked out of the conference, refusing to make eye-contact with us. Five security guards, all wearing bullet-proof vests under their suits, quickly surrounded Gaffney and physically blocked us from approaching him. We followed him into the parking lot to ask if had forgotten about us, but Gaffney refused to acknowledge our presence. Instead, one of the conference’s burly security men moved to ensure we couldn’t come within several yards of the neoconservative activist. After a few minutes of confusion, we turned on our camera to try to record what was going on. And just before he got into his car, Gaffney responded, “I gotta go”:
FANG: Uh, Undersecretary Gaffney, you said you’d give us a few comments after the event?
CLIFTON: Undersecretary, you have two minutes?
GAFFNEY: I gotta go.
FANG: Any reason you have five security guards protecting you here? We’ve interviewed you in the past!
Gaffney’s retreat from ThinkProgress seemed bizarre, but similar hostility was evident throughout the conference. Lou Ann Zelnick, a failed congressional candidate and activist involved in protesting the construction of a mosque in nearby Murfreesboro, yelled at us without provocation.
Later in the evening, towards the end of the conference, we encountered three additional security guards. The new guards, who paced near us at times, had handguns displayed in their holsters.