Probably all the above, but one other thing is certain: Geller gets paid pretty well to demonize Muslims. I’m talking to the tune of $200,000 a year. True, that might be walking around money for Donald Trump (who actually bashed Geller this week for her draw the Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest), but that puts her in the top 5 percent of all Americans in terms of annual income. Now, $200,000 doesn’t make a person rich these days (although the $9 million in combined divorce settlement and life-insurance payments she reportedly got certainly qualifies her). But for what she does, it’s handsome pay.
In fact, many of the people identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Center for American Progress (CAP) as the leaders of the anti-Muslim industry in America are paid well for their efforts. I’m talking so much money I almost want to start hating on Muslims—and I’m Muslim.
In Geller’s case, her salary is paid from her organization the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group listed by the SPLC as an active “anti-Muslim organization.” In 2013, the AFDI reported $958,800 in gross receipts and paid Geller a base salary of $192,500, plus $18,750 in other income (PDF).
Not bad for a group created, per AFDI’s tax returns, to act “against the treason being committed by the national, state and local government officials, the mainstream media and others in their capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic Supremacism.” This is truly one step removed from tin foil hats and claims that the government has bugged your cheese.
But Geller, who has also been denounced by the ADL for vilifying Muslims, is just one of many profiting from hate (PDF). As Matt Duss, a former policy analyst for the Center for American Progress and now president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, noted, “It’s certainly been a lucrative industry for leading anti-Muslim bigots. Tens of millions of dollars have been poured into this.”
Duss is truly an expert in this field, having co-authored a report released in February titled “Fear, Inc. 2.0” (PDF) that investigated the Islamophobia network in America and traced the funds used to support its key players. For example, the report notes that Frank Gaffney, Fox News regular (of course), is one of the leaders of the anti-Muslim movement and is the primary engineer of the claim that Muslims want to impose Islamic law across America. Gaffney has even argued that giving Muslim Americans a day off from work for Muslim holidays is a form of imposing sharia law.
Well, Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy (CSP) in 2012 reported $3.2 million in revenue. And Gaffney, as president, paid himself $300,000 a year for his work in demonizing Muslims.
Then there’s David Horowitz, a man described by the SPLC as “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement.” He has also been denounced by the ADL for his work that “promotes anti-Muslim views and features events with anti-Muslim activists.” (PDF)
For example, Horowitz has tried to bully and marginalize Muslim-American college students by claiming that the Muslim Student Associations are“associated with terrorist organizations” and intend to “kill the Jews, to push them into the sea.”
Being “the godfather” of anti-Muslim hate appears to pay well. Horowitz’s Freedom Center in 2013 saw over $7.2 million in gross receipts and Horowitz was paid $525,000 in salary (PDF). And Horowitz even bankrolls Robert Spencer, another well-known Muslim-basher, with a $167,000-a-year salary.
Now in Horowitz’s defense, he doesn’t focus just on demonizing Muslims. He has also made other hateful comments like “There’s no community that’s more racist in America than the black community.” This guy is making a lot, but he is really earning his money.
And who can forget Brigitte Gabriel, another Fox News staple who demonizes Muslims at every turn. Gabriel runs Act for America!, which the SPLC has noted is part of the “anti-Muslim inner circle.” Gabriel has given us such anti-Muslim classics as “America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department.”
How much does Gabriel get paid to offer that type of garbage? Per Act for America’s 2012 tax returns, she was paid a $132,000 base salary and $84,090 as a bonus (PDF). I wonder if she earns that bonus by dishing out such off-the-wall claims as “tens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America…attending our colleges and universities, even infiltrating our government.”
So who funds these organizations? Well that’s more challenging to determine. It’s like trying to figure the names of the people who fund the Klan or neo-Nazis—not too many people advertise their support for them. But the Fear, Inc. report found that certain key foundations have donated close to $60 million in recent years to these anti-Muslim advocates.
The most notable are the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Scaife Foundation, which each have donated over $5 million (PDF) to David Horowitz’s Freedom Center. The Scaife Foundation also donated over $3 million to Frank Gaffney’s CSP.
Why do they fund these groups is a big question. Duss explained that in his view it’s “because a group of hawkish conservative funders clearly see a political benefit to stoking Americans’ fears and suspicions of their fellow citizens who are Muslims.” This means we may see even more money flowing to these anti-Muslim advocates in the 2016 presidential race.
The bottom line is that the anti-Muslim industry is lucrative and not going anywhere soon. But at least now we can understand why some of these people engage in such hateful activities: It’s a living. And a nice one.