One of the most influential anti-Muslim leaders in America — whose organization is widely considered a hate group — met this week with White House staffer Paul Teller, who espouses the Republican right's view that militant Islam poses an existential threat to the United States.
Teller — a Republican firebrand and former chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz — has been quoted as warning about “radical Islamic terrorists who seek to annihilate us.”
This week, Teller met with ACT for America founder Brigitte Gabriel. She once said “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim” and her group, founded in 2007, has been designated a hate group by several organizations that track extremism.
Teller at least in public is more careful than Gabriel about aiming his criticism as "radical" Muslims. Gabriel makes no such distinction.
Under Cruz, Teller was a behind-the-scenes player who was described in a Washington Post profile as “one of the most influential conservative aides in Congress” and by The Hill as Cruz’s “agitator in chief.”
He is known for an aggressive take-no-prisoners style that so infuriated fellow Republicans during the 2011 debt ceiling debacle that GOP lawmakers once chanted, “Fire him! Fire him!”
In the Trump administration, Teller serves as special assistant to the president for legislative affairs in the House, focusing on conservative lawmakers. While it’s unclear how long Teller spent with Gabriel during her visit, the photo raises a question: With a contentious health-care bill looming in Congress, what’s a top White House legislative aide doing hanging out with Gabriel instead of whipping votes?
The White House didn't return requests for comment.
Cruz has also pressed to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, a move that could presage a crackdown on American Muslim groups with even slender ties to the organization.
Hannah Allam is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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