Longtime Republican Party icon Grover Norquist defended himself Thursday on an hourlong television show against accusations by conservatives that he has ties to people who’ve worked for Muslim Brotherhood front groups.
Mr. Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, refuted the allegations going back more than a decade on Glenn Beck’s program on The Blaze TV.
“Ten years ago, I probably didn’t know what the Muslim Brotherhood was,” Mr. Norquist said, telling Mr. Beck at one point that he was “overreaching” with his accusations.
Mr. Beck hit back at his guest, accusing him of associating with people who later supported terrorism, one of whom is now in prison.
“It would have been completely irresponsible of you to not do your homework,” Mr. Beck said. “You sound a little bit like President Obama — ‘I just found out about the Muslim Brotherhood while watching the news.’ You should probably, at best, take a little more personal responsibility for the people you surround yourself with.”
The extraordinary show was a clash of two heavyweights on the right of the political spectrum. Mr. Norquist has been a kingmaker in the GOP for decades, enforcing a no-tax pledge that could make or break candidates and hosting influential strategy sessions with party stalwarts.
Mr. Beck, the former Fox News host, is a hugely popular conservative radio and TV host who took down his show’s pay wall for Mr. Norquist’s appearance. He says he has disowned the Republican Party because “they’re only concerned about winning, money and power.”
Mr. Norquist’s appearance on the show was in response to accusations raised by Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, who is trying to ban Mr. Norquist from the Conservative Political Action Conference. Mr. Gaffney is also a columnist for The Washington Times.
Mr. Beck questioned Mr. Norquist about his past association with figures such as former American Muslim leader Abdurahman Alamoudi, who is in prison for financing al Qaeda. In 1999 Alamoudi wrote two $10,000 checks to Mr. Norquist’s Islamic Institute, which he said he founded as “a beacon for property rights and low taxes” in the Muslim world.
While Mr. Norquist said Alamoudi “deserves to be in prison” for a plot to kill the king of Saudi Arabia, he said Alamoudi seemed like a reasonable person when he met him in the late 1990s.
“He had worked with all the Jewish groups in D.C. in the 1990s [and] they all thought he was OK,” Mr. Norquist said. “He was somebody who people thought at that point was an OK guy.”
But Mr. Norquist also said he wasn’t very close to the man.
“The effort to attach me to Alamoudi has been tried, but it’s just not accurate,” he said.
Mr. Norquist mainly kept his cool as Mr. Beck questioned him, only showing annoyance when the host asked about his ties to Khaled Saffuri, who was co-founder of the Islamic Institute with Mr. Norquist and became influential in the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Beck described Mr. Saffuri as “Alamoudi’s right-hand man.”
“Khaled’s not that way,” Mr. Norquist retorted, describing Mr. Saffuri as a friend. “There’s nothing wrong with Khaled Saffuri, sir. What’s the complaint? What did he do?”
Mr. Norquist at one point complained that Mr. Beck was trying to convict him of guilt by association.
“I was drinking buddies with [convicted Israeli spy] Jonathan Pollard,” Mr. Norquist said. “He didn’t mention to me that he was a spy.”