Friday night, Anchorage Assembly member Amy Demboski (Eagle River) — who also hosts a local conservative talk show on KVNT — posted a salacious and misleading link to her radio show’s Facebook page.
The link directed viewers to a post penned by Anneta Griffee, published on former Newsmax host Dennis Michael Lynch’s blog. Lynch is a film documentarian specializing in anti-immigration flicks. The article, entitled “Report: Why Islamic Compounds Across the US Are Stockpiling Arms,” asserts that radical Muslims are collecting weapons in several U.S. states with the intention of committing terrorist attacks.
“With the election of Donald Trump, they believe that their end times prophecies that they believe in are now being fulfilled, Donald Trump is part of a Satanic Jewish conspiracy, and they are preparing for the camps to be raided and to fight back,” Anti-Muslim extremist and conspiracy theorist Ryan Mauro explained to Fox Business channel’s Stuart Varney, accompanied by an infographic showing nine states with alleged compounds.
Mauro (misidentified as Ryan Morrow in the article) is a national security analyst for the Clarion Project — a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to “exposing the dangers of Islamic extremism while providing a platform for the voices of moderation and promoting grassroots activism.” Clarion was listed in a 2013 report published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an organization “designed to vilify Islamic religious practices.” The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Clarion as an anti-Muslim group.
Griffee’s article echoed Mauro’s sentiment:
“[M]ultiple sources have confirmed that the people living within the Islamic compounds believe that, with the election of Donald Trump, the ‘end-times’ prophecies they believe in are now being fulfilled. They think that Donald Trump is part of a ‘Satanic Jewish conspiracy’ and they are preparing for their camps to be raided.”
One of the nine states Mauro reported as hosting an “Islamic compound” was Alaska, but Griffee and Mauro only identified a single name to substantiate the claim: Gregory Jones, a Democratic Party delegate, who supported Bernie Sanders in this year’s primary and went on to unsuccessfully challenge State Rep. Mark Neuman (R-Big Lake) in the November election.
“The Clarion Project has learned that a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention is a member of Muslims of the Americas, which is a rebranding of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a cultish Islamist group that is led by an extremist cleric in Pakistan and has a history of terrorism and criminal activity,” Mauro wrote for Clarion. “The individual is also running for the Alaska State House.”
“I know Gregory Jones,” my Alaska Commons colleague and friend, Kokayi Nosakhere, mentioned when I showed him the article. I asked if he was a terrorist. Nosakhere responded, “I think he’s an electrician.”
“I ran for House District 8, and so I appeared on [Demboski’s] show twice, actually. I was featured on her show for about an hour,” Jones told me on Sunday afternoon. We spoke over the phone. “It’s almost like a witch hunt. These people are out painting a picture. They’re doing a lot of lying. There’s a lot of lying and fabrication going on; a lot of deception.”
Jones, 50 years old, is a resident of Big Lake in the Mat-Su Valley, a political activist, a 16-year journeyman electrician and member of the IBEW Local 26, who also has worked as a security and investigations professional for ADT Security Services. He is married to his wife, Maleika, with children and ten grandchildren.
He said that Demboski quoted the Clarion Project when he appeared on the show, as well as quoting anti-Muslim activists like Pamela Geller. And he said the radio segments did not end the conversation, which spilled over to the Eagle River representative’s personal Facebook page.
“They’re talking about ‘Where is the Muslim training camp?’ and they’re trying to find it. There are people on there that are saying they want to go out and find the place. So, they’re gathering supporters to go out and find the Muslim,” he said. “She’s endangering me and my wife and my children.”
“By no means is Greg any type, way, shape, or form a terrorist, plain and simple,” incoming Anchorage NAACP president Kevin McGee told me. McGee said that Jones was currently working with the organization on policy issues. “Hell no. He’s no damn terrorist.”
He said that a lot of people have been “bamboozled” by the fearmongering elevated by this year’s presidential election, which has been promulgated and promoted by Fox News and a network of online faux-news websites. He noted the infamous quote from Joseph Goebbels: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth,” which has been occasionally wrongfully attributed to Trump.
The quote holds water. There have been multiple online posts documenting the so-called terrorist training camp in Alaska. None offer anything remotely resembling concrete to substantiate the claim, yet Clarion went as far as to put someone’s name out there without a shred of legitimacy. And, yet, it was picked up by fake news sites, like Truth and Action, with hyperlinks that either take viewers no where or to error messages, but were nevertheless sanctioned (read: legitimized) on Fox News/Business repeatedly without mention of the fact that the claims are completely based in fantasy. Then, it continues on to Facebook posts, like Demboski’s, where people cite the sources echoing the same unsubstantiated claims.
“You don’t have proof of anything. You go on hearsay,” McGee said, audibly frustrated. “You go on assumptions. Simply because Greg and his wife believe in the Muslim faith? Okay, that’s their personal choice. That’s their First Amendment right. They’re both American citizens. So now you’re going to go and deny somebody’s First Amendment right just because you don’t accept it?”
Jones has been a follower of Islam since he was five years old, he said. He is a member of the Muslims of the Americas, but is not a spokesperson.
“I spoke with their attorney and they are fighting against Islamophobia. They are working with Federal, State, and local authorities,” he said. “These right wing vigilantes like to take matters into their own hands and investigate and confront Muslim organizations.”
Both McGee and Jones believe Demboski’s actions warrant action by her Assembly peers. (Demboski, when asked for comment, recommended I tune into the show, which does not offer podcasts.)
Jones says he’s contacted legal counsel as well as the ACLU, and he plans to attend the Anchorage Assembly meeting this Tuesday to register a formal complaint and ask for Demboski to be held accountable for disseminating propaganda that he views threatening.
“This needs to be exposed, because what’s really happening on that site is that people are out looking — I guess they’re looking for my house,” he said. “I can’t see how they can tolerate this. They might just discard her as, you know, a little eccentric or something, but she’s gone too far now.”
“Hold her accountable for defamation of character,” McGee agreed. “The Assembly should censure her for that.”
The Assembly has little power to censure her. The only redress is a recall, which would necessitate an application signed by ten registered voters. If the grounds for recall were to be approved by the municipal clerk, it would then need signatures equal to 25 percent of the votes cast in the last election for that Assembly seat.
For Jones’s part, he remains adamant in his objection to Demboski’s actions and defensive of his character. He said he ran for the House seat because Neuman was running unopposed.
“I have worked tirelessly in Alaska to promote peace between the faiths of Muslims and Christians and Jews,” he told me. “I have worked tirelessly to promote social order and justice for the vulnerable in our society. I worked with the NAACP, I’ve worked with various churches and organizations, I’ve hosted seminars, and that’s all I’ve done. That’s my record. These wild accusations that she’s making are very harmful and I hold the Assembly directly responsible for her actions.”
“Greg and his wife, Maleika, they’re some good human beings,” McGee agreed. “They’re some good people. Period.”