The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the controversial Republican PAC linked to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, has just released an attack ad against the Democratic candidate for the 7th District, Abigail Spanberger. CLF is the same PAC, who only last week, released Spanberger’s un-redacted security clearance forms in a move that was highly controversial and condemned by the national security establishment. The documents showed that Spanberger, a former CIA case officer for counter-terrorism, was briefly a substitute teacher at the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Fairfax, Virginia. The international school, before closing, was funded by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, who is an ally of the U.S. in all counter-terrorism efforts.
Spanberger told RVA Mag last week that she only taught at the school briefly and according to her campaign, she was only at the ISA for a year.
Nonetheless, the video starts by asking the question: “What is Abigail Spanberger hiding?” before saying, “Spanberger doesn’t want us to know that she taught at an Islamic school nicknamed, ‘terror high’, a terrorist breeding ground.'” While two students at the ISA were implicated in terrorism cases, the claims made by the CLF video do not pass scrutiny. A timeline prepared by the Spanberger Campaign shows that Spanberger left the ISA in 2003, almost six years before these men were implicated in any kind of terrorism charges.
— Congressional Leadership Fund (@CLFSuperPAC) September 6, 2018
In a statement released this morning Spanberger said, “For a Republican Super PAC to question my national security credentials and integrity based on the time I spent as a long-term substitute, teaching English to children at an embassy school in Northern Virginia, is desperate and weak, and it shows just how terrified they are of having an independent voice representing this community in Congress.”
Justin Jones, Communications Director for the Spanberger Campaign, reached out to RVA Mag to talk about the video saying, “Attacking her for being a substitute teacher is ridiculous. Abigail has nothing to hide, she received top-secret security clearances based on her background, experience, and integrity and faithfully served our country for over a decade as a federal law enforcement and CIA officer.” He went on to say that the ad was also based off of information that was “illegally disclosed” by the United States Postal Service in a freedom of information act request made by an organization affiliated with the CLF.
Beyond the veracity of the CLF’s claims, this is an obvious attempt to drum up anti-Muslim sentiment as a way to score political points. According to FBI data released in November 2017, religiously motivated crimes against Muslims made up 25 percent of all reported hate crimes, which was a marked increase from the year before. Pew Research released a study about the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes in July 2017; among other things the study said, “Overall, Muslims in the United States perceive a lot of discrimination against their religious group, are leery of Trump and think their fellow Americans do not see Islam as part of mainstream U.S. society.” This attack ad against Spanberger by the CLF only fuels this distrust and as the study went on to show is part of the reason why a third of Americans believe there is a “fair amount” of backing by U.S. Muslims for extremists or a “great deal”.