Controversial FOX News Mideast Pundit Walid Phares Speaking at FAU
The speaking appearance at FAU next week of FOX News talking head Walid Phares has been preceded by little fanfare, unusual for a school that trumpets such events as a local Boys & Girls Clubs' art exhibit or the school's Jupiter campus being named a "Tree Campus USA."
Flickr cc/ TheIRD Phares
Perhaps it's just as well, given the school's record of mishandling political hot potatoes. In the course of his career Phares has been denounced as a "radical, right-wing, sharia-phobe" and praised as "a true gentleman and one of the world's top analysts on terrorism, jihad, and the Middle East."
Criticism of Phares exploded in October 2011 when Mitt Romney announced Phares' appointment as a foreign policy advisor, a move interpreted as a dog whistle to the neocon community. "Walid Phares is advising Romney on Middle East policy? For realz? That's terrifying," tweeted one Middle East expert. "I have nothing against Gov. Romney," tweeted another, "but appointing Walid Phares your M.E. advisor is NUTS."
More detailed objections to Phares came from publications like The New Republic and especially, Mother Jones, which reported that Phares had been "a high ranking political official in a sectarian religious militia responsible for massacres during Lebanon's brutal, 15-year civil war."
Right-wing and GOP writers and publications rushed to Phares' defense, most coherently in National Review, where it was argued that Phares' critics had overstated his role in the Lebanese Christian militia, whose massacres were, in any case "the war crime of a small rogue group."
A very savvy analysis of the affair's political fallout came from Politico, which noted "the extent to which Phares is now aligned with an 'anti-jihad' movement that sometimes shades into being flatly anti-Islam." Politico highlighted this, from Mother Jones:
Phares may be viewed as mainstream, but he doesn't avoid the more vocally anti-Muslim segments of the right. He has been a columnist for David Horowitz's arch-conservative Frontpage magazine, and he endorsed two books by Robert Spencer, whose writings frequently posit that American Muslims are part of a conspiracy to establish Taliban-style Islamic law in the United States. Phares also serves on the advisory board of the Clarion Fund, which has released a series of films warning of an Islamist fifth column in the United States. In a YouTube video released by anti-Islam activist Brigitte Gabriel, herself a Maronite Christian whose views of Islam were shaped by harrowing experiences in Lebanon's civil war, Phares tells Gabriel that "there is a cold war infiltration acquiring influence and the lands of what they call the infidels." When Gabriel's cohost asks Phares for examples of this vast conspiracy, Phares quietly assures him, "We can't give names, because it's operational, it's happening now."
New Times only became aware of Phares' FAU appearance when we received an email off an FAU internal email list, in which Professor Robert Rabil announced Phares' lecture -- "co-sponsored by the Peace Studies program and the College Republicans at FAU" -- on behalf of the school's Political Science Department, where Rabil teaches.
Asked about the scant publicity for Phares' appearance, Rabil said he'd expected Phares' publisher to handle that. Otherwise, he said, "If you're not on an email listed with FAU you won't get [an announcement]." About attendance by the community at large he said, "I'm not concerned. It's an open space."