Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project - updated 1/12/2015
Posted Jan 12, 2015

Steven Emerson and The Investigative Project

by Sheila Musaji

Steven Emerson

, is the Executive Director of The Investigative Project which produced the documentary “Jihad in America”. 

During the first of Rep. Peter King’s hearings on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response”  Emerson’s name came up on more than one occasion.  When asked where he gets his information about Muslims King mentioned doubtful sources:  “Hannity asked King to confirm he was saying 85 percent of mosques in America are “ruled by the extremists.”  “Yes,” he replied, “and I can get you the documentation on that from experts in the field. Talk to a Steve Emerson, talk to a [Daniel] Pipes, talk to any of those. They will tell you. It’s a real issue … . I’ll stand by that number of 85 percent. This is an enemy living amongst us.” ** 

If Emerson was one of King’s primary sources of information, it is no wonder that he received so much incorrect information.

Emerson’s relationship to the truth may be questionable.  Emerson told a reporter shortly after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that he believed the perpetrators were likely Islamic terrorists.  He has made other unsubstantiated claims including the “fact” that a hit team of Islamic Fundamentalists had been dispatched to kill him.  Emerson filed a lawsuit against the journalist who raised doubts about his claims, but a court ruled against him in the lawsuit.  Emerson has made claims against CAIR, against MPAC, and against ISNA.  Paul Kendall has raised the issue of whether or not he conspired with a foreign government (Israel) to violate the Constitutional rights of American Muslims.  FAIR Smearcaster report on Steven Emerson

“In 1997, for example, an Associated Press editor became convinced that Emerson was the “mother lode of terrorism information,” according to a reporter who worked on a series that looked at American Muslim groups.    As a consultant on the series, Emerson presented AP reporters with what were “supposed to be FBI documents” describing mainstream American Muslim groups with alleged terrorist sympathies, according to the project’s lead writer, Richard Cole. One of the reporters uncovered an earlier, almost identical document authored by Emerson. The purported FBI dossier “was really his,” Cole says. “He had edited out all phrases, taken out anything that made it look like his.”    Another AP reporter, Fred Bayles, recalls that Emerson “could never back up what he said. We couldn’t believe that document was from the FBI files.”    Emerson’s contribution was largely stripped from the series, and he retaliated with a “multi-page rant,” according to Cole. AP executive editor Bill Ahearn does not dispute that the incident happened, but refuses to comment or to release documents because the episode was deemed an “internal matter.” A ranking AP editor in Washington says: “We would be very, very, very, very leery of using Steve Emerson.”   John F. Sugg

“He (Emerson) sued a Florida paper after it published reports that he was supplying reporters with documents he said were from the FBI. The Florida Weekly Planet reported that the documents were frauds and Emerson sued. When he couldn’t substantiate his claims, he withdrew the lawsuit.  Emerson once claimed that an extremist Muslim group put out a hit on him and that the FBI offered to put him in a witness protection program. The FBI denied that claim.”  Andy Birkey

Emerson was one of the “stars” of the film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.  He was one of the major opponents of the Murfreesboro, Tennessee mosque, and the mosque in Boston. 

Emerson made Keith Olbermann’s worst persons in the world list (video) **

Emerson accused New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of having a “strange relationship with radical Islam” because he nominated a Muslim, Sohail Mohammed, for a state judgeship.  **

During the controversy over the Cordoba House in New York On August 20th, Pamela Geller published an article breathlessly announcing that “Steve Emerson has unearthed 13 hours of audio tape of Imam Rauf. Emerson and his team of investigators has spent the past four weeks going through the newly found material. Rauf is a “radical extremist cleric who cloaks himself in sheep’s clothing.”   On September 5th, Richard Bartholomew posted an article asking Whatever Happened to Steve Emerson’s “13 Hours” of Rauf Audio? in which he debunks the nonsense that Emerson has produced and Geller’s take on what Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf meant by various statements.

“Steven Emerson has 3,390,000 reasons to fear Muslims.  That’s how many dollars Emerson’s for-profit company — Washington-based SAE Productions — collected in 2008 for researching alleged ties between American Muslims and overseas terrorism. The payment came from the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, a nonprofit charity Emerson also founded, which solicits money by telling donors they’re in imminent danger from Muslims.  ...  “Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group. “It’s wrong. This is off the charts.”  Bob Smietana

“An investigation of donor tax records from 2001 to 2007 reveals an even more intricate web of organizations. The records show more than $1.6 million in contributions to the “Investigative Project,” “Investigative Project on Terrorism,” and “IPT” in care of a largely unknown group called the Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation (CTSERF).    Much like the Investigative Project, CTSERF tax forms list the transfer of all grant revenues to a for profit entity, the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals (IACSP), in the form of “grants for research on issues of terrorism and counter-terrorism.” It is difficult to determine how the money is disbursed or used after it is transferred, since the IACSP, unlike the CTSERF, is a private for-profit entity.    While the grants are directed to The Investigative Project care-of the CTSERF, neither CTSERF, IACSP nor the Investigative Project’s websites make any mention of a relationship between the CTSERF and the Investigative Project.”  ...  Other high profile donors to the CTSERF include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose foundation contributed $250,000 in 2006, and billionaire Obama supporter Lester Crown, whose foundation wrote grants totaling $75,000 between 2006 and 2007. Neither Adelson nor Crown specified the Investigative Project as the end recipient of their funding.  Eli Clifton

What would an investigative reporter turned director of a private intelligence operation, who is increasingly obsessed with proving that mainstream Muslim American organizations are radical, do when he fails to find evidence to support his obsession? Human decency and ethical conduct dictate that he give up his obsession and admit that he was wrong. Steve Emerson, the director of the shadowy Investigative Project, thinks otherwise. Rather than doing the right thing and give up his bigoted endeavor, he decides to use fantasy to forge evidence and prolong his compulsive obsession.

Emerson belongs to a network of anti-Muslim pundits who, driven by bigotry and exclusivist ideology, are bent on marginalizing Muslim Americans, and using unscrupulous tactics to distort the image of Muslims and instill fear of Islam and Muslims in the American public. Their strategy is to repeat their unfounded accusations against mainstream Muslim organizations so as to create a public record and then use it to incite federal officials and agencies against Muslim Americans. The idea is that if they can repeat a lie long enough, and use different media outlets to propagate their accusations, the lie in time becomes “believable” and takes the semblance of “truth.” Obviously, they have not heeded Abraham Lincoln’s wise advice: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

In a recent article published in the National Review Online (June 28, 2007) under the title “Radical Outreach: Bush coddles American apologists for radical Islam,” Emerson lashes out against President Bush for appointing a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Emerson made it clear that he resents Bush’s initiative, which is aimed at mending fences with the Muslim world, and faults OIC for being critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians under military occupation.

Emerson was particularly upset that President Bush distinguished between Muslims in general and fringe extremist groups whose attacks on innocent civilians have been condemned by Muslim communities throughout the world, and by mainstream Muslim organizations. By making a distinction between ordinary Muslims and extremists, Emerson proclaims, Bush advances the “very talking point [that] is the refuge of America’s supposedly [sic] mainstream Muslim organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Islamic Society of North American (ISNA).”

To undermine the distinction between mainstream Muslims and extremists, he goes to the website of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and picks up a news release that was published in 2004. The news release reported then the decision of the US Navy Chief of Chaplains to remove an article by Salman Rushdie that was intended to instigate Muslims against the West and westerners against Islam from the Navy website. I wrote to Rear Admiral Louis V. Iasiello, then the Navy Chief of Chaplains, asking him to reconsider the decision to publish such a divisive article. Chaplain Iaseillo realized that it was a mistake to republish the article and he ordered its removal.

Emerson takes the news release and turns its content upside down, and without any ifs, maybes, or buts he attributes to me the divisive argument advanced by Rushdie. Emerson writes: “In 2004, Louay Safi, a top ISNA official, went further, writing that the ‘assertion by ‘world leaders’ that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam is nothing but a piece of propaganda and disinformation that was meant to appease Western Muslims and to maintain the coalition against terrorism.’”

Emerson ignores the context of the above statement and omits a key phrase that shows clearly that the quoted argument was that of Rushdie and not my own as he claims. Here is the paragraph which Emerson misquotes in its totality:

“Salman Rushdie’s article ‘Yes, This is About Islam,’ originally published in New York Times, argues that the assertion by ‘world leaders’ that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam is nothing but a piece of propaganda and disinformation that was meant to appease Western Muslims and to maintain the coalition against terrorism.”

Emerson misrepresentation of my position is not simply an error of omission, but a gross distortion of my words and a malicious attempt to put a spin on my statement so as to support his thesis of assigning anti-American views to Muslim American leaders, scholars, and organizations. My correct position is in complete opposition to what Emerson presented and is not easy to miss as it is spelled out in the subsequent paragraph. Here is my response to Rushdie’s argument:

“In his letter, Dr. Safi pointed out that the article not only insult the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide, particularly American soldiers of the Islamic faith, who every day put their lives on the line . . . but its cynicism cannot be easily missed as it accuses the commander in chief, and virtually all senior members of the government, of duplicity.”

Mr. Emerson has in the past used innuendo and half-truths to malign mainstream Muslim individuals and organizations, but he has recently reached a new low as he is now willing to use fraud and fabrication to undermine Muslim Americans. His unscrupulous attacks and insinuations against Muslims in general and Muslim Americans in particular must be condemned by every American of conscience, as his hatful and divisive message would, if left unchecked, confuse the public and undermine the efforts to isolate extremism and defeat terrorism. Louay Safi

Emerson blamed the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing on Muslims

In March of 1995, Emerson told The Jewish Monthly, “nearly all (emphasis added) of the Islamic organizations in the United States that define themselves as religiously or culturally Muslim in character have, today, been totally captured or dominated by radical fundamentalist elements…”

Ironically, it took Emerson no more than a few days to demonstrate to the world why his credibility and integrity as an “observer of trends” should never be taken for granted – especially when they relate to Muslims.

In April of 1995, Emerson confidently asserted on a live broadcast of CBS News that the Oklahoma City bombing – then breaking news – showed “a Middle Eastern trait” because it was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.”

“Oklahoma City, I can tell you, is probably considered one of the largest centers of Islamic radical activity outside the Middle East,” Emerson explained with an enthusiasm bordering on elation.

While Emerson preoccupied himself with indulging his knack for conjecture, real detectives worked calmly and professionally to reveal that, contrary to Emerson’s “expert perceptions”, Timothy McVeigh and company were behind the bombings. Emerson’s incompetence was duly exposed; CBS decided not to renew his contract and blacklisted him for five years.  Ahmed Rehab

Political Correction has an in-depth article Rep. Frank Wolf, Witness In Peter King Hearing On “Radicalization,” Helped Kill Effective Counterterrorism Program detailing Emerson’s role in encouraging Rep. Wolf to kill The Partnership for Prevention and Community Safety (PfP) was a unique research-based counterterrorism effort focused on creating meaningful lines of communication between local Arab, Muslim and Sikh communities and law enforcement agencies. Its supporters believed the program was necessary because the two were not effectively sharing resources and information.  PfP was predicated on the belief that local leaders might be in the best position to recognize if something seemed “out of place” in their community. They could be the most valuable asset in counterterrorism efforts. The program was intended to remove impediments for interaction between local community leaders and law enforcement.

The Center for American Progress Report:  includes information on Steven Emerson as part of that network_.  __UPDATE 1/12/2015__Steven Emerson just can’t seem to resist going out on a limb, and then sawing the limb off behind himself.  He [url=]appeared on Fox News as a “terrorism expert” after the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, and claimed among other things that the City of Birmingham is a “totally Muslim” city.  His statements were so ludicrous that a twitter hashtag #FoxNewsFacts trended with people mocking his appearance.

In this case, since Birmingham is approximately 20% Muslim, Emerson has done better than usually, as he is only 80% wrong.



Sheldon Adelson and Lester Crown, together again, Philip Weiss

American Muslim Civil Rights Hearing, an Encouraging Development, Sheila Musaji

Anti-Muslim crusaders make millions spreading fear, Bob Smietana

Anti-Muslim Smear Machine Strikes Again?, Isabel Macdonald

Emerson claims that the Fiqh Council Fatwa Against Terrorism is bogus

“The Grand Deception” of Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism


Act Now Against Steve Emerson’s Defamation of Mainstream Muslim American Leader, MPAC

CAMERA doth protest too much re its role in Boston anti-mosque campaign,  Jeff Klein 

Christie Attacked By Right-Wing Bloggers For Appointing Muslim Judge: ‘He’s In Bed With The Enemy’

Steven Emerson/MAS/Khalilah Sabra Incident, Sheila Musaji

Emerson’s attack on Christina Abraham

Steven Emerson’s Crusade, John Sugg

Steven Emerson’s Disturbing Track Record, Ahmed Rehab

Steven Emerson’s Fantastic Obsession With American Muslim Organizations, Louay Safi

Steve Emerson’s Jihad Racket, M.J. Rosenberg

Steven Emerson of the anti-Muslim Movement has Millions of reasons to fear Muslims

Steve Emerson Scammin’ the IRS, Richard Silverstein

Steven Emerson “Wowser”

Fox uses debunked ‘terrorism expert’ Steven Emerson to slam Rep. Ellison’s trip to Mecca, Andy Birkey 

Inside the lucrative “anti-jihad” industry: A new report alleges that a leading mosque opponent is gaming the non-profit tax system, Justin Elliott

More Insights Into Steven Emerson’s Tangled Funding Web, Eli Clifton

MPAC exposes Steven Emerson’s self-serving distortions 

Muslim Chaplain Flap: Illinois State Police Sued By Advocacy Group after Investigative Project on Terrorism objects to appoingment of Muslim Chaplain
Olbermann Calls Out Bill O’Reilly, Steven Emerson on MSNBC

Right Web report on Steven Emerson

Smearcasting report on Emerson

Terror Expert Emerson Feels His Own Heat Over Finances, Nathan Guttman and Larry Cohler-Esses 

“Terror” Slut Steve Emerson Eats Crow (Just for Starters) Withdraws Defamation Suit

Terrorists under the bed (review of “American Jihad”), Eric Boehlert

US Air Force Academy encourages Islamophobia?, Abdus Sattar Ghazzali

Rep. Frank Wolf, Witness In Peter King Hearing On “Radicalization,” Helped Kill Effective Counterterrorism Program (one of his advisers was Steven Emerson), Walid Zafar

First published 3/26/2011