It’s rare for a congressional aide to have her own mini-profile on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website outlining her ties to extremist groups.
But such is the case for Connie Hair, chief of staff to Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) and one of the participants at what the New York Times reported was a tense White House meeting last week between President Trump and far-right activists concerned about the threat posed by transgender people and women serving in the military.
The Times article focused on how the unusual Roosevelt Room summit was organized by Ginni Thomas, the longtime conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. But the other attendees mentioned by the Times are worthy of note as well.
Beyond Hair, the group reportedly included veteran anti-Islam champion Frank Gaffney and Rosemary Jenks of the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA. Crystal Clanton, who was hired as an assistant by Ginni Thomas after being booted from conservative youth group Turning Point USA for a text message saying she hated black people, was reportedly on the list of names that Thomas asked to have attend. Whether Clanton ended up actually joining the meeting is unclear.
On her public Facebook page, Thomas wrote Monday that “16 conservative leaders” in total attended the meeting. Crowing about “#FAKENEWS,” Thomas said that the Times painted a “CARTOONISH and BIZARRE depiction of a fascinating, engaging and honest discussion” with the President. Thomas alleged that the White House staff were “oddly” trying to distance the activists from the President, and said the group was right to “warn the President of the sabotage within the wire” among his leaking White House team.
Spokespeople at Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA said they would share TPM’s requests for comment with Gaffney and Jenks. Clanton did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.
Reached by phone at Gohmert’s office Monday, Hair laughed and said, “I don’t have any comment about it.”
“Maybe another time we’ll talk about it, but not today,” Hair continued.
According to the Times, the hour-long meeting consisted of the activists expressing concern with topics ranging from gay marriage to disloyal White House aides blocking Trump supporters from getting administration jobs to transgender people serving in the military. “Three people with direct knowledge of the events” told the Times that Trump “sat, saying little but appearing taken aback” by the activists’ criticism.
The reported attendees share long histories of publicly stoking fears about undocumented immigrants and the “creeping” spread of Sharia law in the United States. Several discuss these issues openly in high-octane social media posts.
Hair is particularly vocal on Facebook and Twitter, where she alternates between sharing Bible verses, posts praising Trump, and articles from obscure news sites. “Leftist Jew Hatred Comes To America,” read one recent headline shared by Hair from a site called American Greatness.
A Jan. 9 Facebook post sharing an article about Trump banning transgender people from military service is captioned “Yay!” Recent tweets include include a retweeted comment about the 2017 mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas being covered up, and an article suggesting that women could be forcibly drafted into the U.S. armed services.
According to the SPLC, Hair is a longtime friend of Fox News’ Sean Hannity who started out as a B movie actress before becoming involved with various conservative causes. Hair had stints working for the far-right legal outfit Judicial Watch, serving as the official spokesperson for the Arizona’s Minuteman militia organization, and writing speeches on the communications team for Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who resigned in disgrace in 2017 amid reports he suggested aides have intercourse with him to serve as a surrogate for his child.
Hair also previously worked as a columnist for Human Events, writing articles about the Muslim Brotherhood’s “great strides in its infiltration of American government and institutions” and stopping the spread of Sharia law. She now serves as chief of staff for Gohmert, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and one of the most conservative members of Congress.
Frank Gaffney is perhaps the best known of the meeting attendees named by the Times. Gaffney founded the Center for Security Policy think tank in 1988, which he uses as a vehicle to spread conspiracy theories about the threat Islam poses to America.
Gaffney has falsely claimed that President Barack Obama is a secret Muslim and that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was a secret agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. Though he was once considered on the fringe and banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference for baselessly accusing members of CPAC’s board of assisting the Muslim Brotherhood, Gaffney was welcomed into the fold of the modern Republican Party. He held a national security summit for 2016 presidential candidates, and advised the Trump campaign on issues like the Muslim ban.
More recently, Gaffney drew headlines for denying that Hungarian Jewish philanthropist George Soros is a victim of anti-Semitism and suggesting that the string of pipe bombs sent to Democratic figures and newsrooms last year were a false flag meant to “deflect attention from the Left’s mobs.”
Rosemary Jenks, another reported attendee, is a fellow traveler in the world of anti-immigrant advocacy. Since the 1990s, Jenks has devoted her career to writing papers about the untold cost of undocumented immigration and speaking to Congress about the national security threats immigrants pose. She has described NumbersUSA, where she works as the director of government relations, as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan immigration reduction organization.”
This work has occasionally brought Jenks into contact with rather questionable associates. In 2008, according to the SPLC, Jenks spoke at a conference hosted by the Social Contract Press, a publication founded by nativist movement founder John Tanton that “routinely publishes race-baiting articles penned by white nationalists.”
The meeting at the White House was months in the making, according to the Times, and only came together thanks to the determination of Ginni Thomas. An ardent support of Trump, Thomas’ political advocacy and disdain for political correctness has brought scrutiny from the press in light of her husband’s position.
Thomas has shared posts on social media claiming that Democrats committed voter fraud in the 2018 midterms, that the gun control advocacy of the Parkland school shooting survivors represented a threat “to the survival of our nation” and suggesting that immigrants are “criminals and killers.”
Thomas has spent decades pushing a hard-right agenda as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., most recently via her one-woman Liberty Consulting and an organization, Groundswell, focused on strategizing against Democrats.
Thomas has also furthered the career of Crystal Clanton, a former member of the pro-Trump youth advocacy group Turning Point USA who the Times reported Thomas tried to have included in last week’s White House meeting. Clanton was booted unceremoniously from her post as TP USA’s national field director in 2017 after the New Yorker published a text message she sent to another staffer saying, “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all…I hate blacks. End of story.”
Mediaite revealed that Thomas hired Clanton as an assistant in the months following this debacle, publishing photographs of Clanton relaxing with the Thomas’ at their private residence and schmoozing alongside Ginni Thomas at conservative events.