Director at pro-Trump group boasted of asking airline passengers with “a rag” on their heads if they were terrorists

America First Policies' Carl Higbie: “You put a rag on your head, it’s my right to be suspicious”

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

A director for the pro-Trump group America First Policies once proudly said that he asks fellow airline passengers whom he deems “Muslim jihad-looking” if they’re terrorists, stating that when “you put a rag on your head, it’s my right to be suspicious.”

Carl Higbie is a right-wing commentator who recently joined America First Policies as its director of advocacy. The organization is one of the leading allies of President Donald Trump; Vice President Mike Pence has been campaigning with the organization and is scheduled to appear at a March 22 event the group is hosting in New Hampshire.

Higbie was hired despite his history of bigotry, which resulted in his resignation as chief of external affairs at the Corporation for National and Community Service in January.

As CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported, Higbie said on radio that “‘the black race’ had ‘lax’ morals”; that “black women think ‘breeding is a form of government employment’”; and that he didn’t like Muslims and LGBTQ people. He also stated that members of the military with severe PTSD have "'a weak mind' and said 75% of those afflicted were either lying or milking it for federal money.” In March, CNN also reported that Higbie “shared an N-word laden post written by someone else on Facebook in December 2014.”

Following Higbie’s hiring by America First Policies, Media Matters reviewed several other media appearances he had made and found even more vitriolic comments, including his claim about harassing airline seatmates.

During an April 19, 2013, guest appearance on the internet-based network Renegade Talk Radio, Higbie reacted to the Boston Marathon bombing by bragging that he discriminates against airline passengers who he said look Muslim. From the segment:

CARL HIGBIE: Well, the thing is we need to get over the fact that, you know -- “Oh, you can’t insult the prophet. You can’t insult Islam.” Who the fuck cares how you feel? You’re in my country, all right? We’re not a Muslim country. You put a rag on your head, it’s my right to be suspicious. When I get on an airplane and I’m sitting next to some Muslim jihad-looking dude, I ask him. I say: “Dude, are you a terrorist?” And he gets all bent out of shape. “Oh, what’s that supposed to mean?” Yeah. Because no 90-year-old women have brought down any planes recently. So are you or are you not a terrorist? Answer the fucking question.

During the exchange, co-host Richie Keppler also repeatedly used the anti-Muslim slur “raghead” when talking about the perpetrators of the Boston bombing. 

Later during the program, Higbie said: “I say it’s OK to hate Muslims.” He also said during a discussion about morality in the United States: “I just don’t like gay people.” CNN’s KFile also documented that Higbie said in May 2013 on his Sound of Freedom radio program: “I don't like gay people. I just don't." The Greenwich Time reported earlier this week of Higbie's views about LGBTQ people: "'I’ve changed a lot on that topic,' Higbie said, noting, as he had in the past, that he was molested as a child by a man. 'I wish I could take those comments back.'"

In addition to appearing as a guest, Higbie also hosted programs for Renegade Talk Radio. During a November 9, 2013, show, Higbie said (3:44 minutes into the clip): “I have no problem with Muslims in Ameri -- well. I have no problem with Muslims in America here. As long as they conform to being Americans. If they’re going to run around with a towel on their head, I’m going to act suspicious because they’re identifying themselves as Muslim and they’re distinctly saying, ‘Look at me, I’m Muslim.’”

During a November 5, 2013, show, Higbie said (15:00 minutes into the clip) that then-President Barack Obama is “like a Muslim-in-chief infiltrating, infiltrating our government.” He later said (18:54 minutes into the clip) he thought the 2013 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport “may have been an attempt to pull the attention off Obamacare. Now, I could be wrong, and like I said, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, because I really don't think the government is organized enough to commit some of these serious conspiracies, but this -- it’s getting deeper and deeper.”

Media Matters asked America First Polices if it wanted to respond to Higbie's remarks about airplane passengers. Spokesperson Erin Montgomery replied: “I think if you have to go back five whole years to fulfill your mission to expose so-called 'right-wing media lies,' then you may want to be a bit more concerned about the relevance of your nonprofit. As a former U.S. Navy SEAL with two tours of duty in Iraq fighting radical Islam, Carl Higbie risked his life for the better part of a decade to protect the freedoms of all Americans, including those who work at your organization. He's been a warrior on and off the battlefield--a loyal fighter for policies that will help put all Americans first.” 

*This post has been updated with additional information.