FIRST ON FOX: The Department of Homeland Security is targeting conservative Americans and must answer for bankrolling a university program that has explicitly lumped the Republican Party, as well as Christian and conservative groups, into the same category as Nazis, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas obtained exclusively by Fox News Digital.
Biggs, along with 15 House Republican co-signers, sent Mayorkas the letter on Friday, calling on him to stop DHS’s alleged targeting of the Biden administration’s political opponents.
“Under your leadership, the Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly targeted conservative Americans for lawfully expressing their First Amendment rights,” the letter states. “The Constitution prohibits the federal government from suppressing the free speech of Americans, by any means, including the use of third parties to engage in unconstitutional attacks on free speech. But this unlawful federal speech regulatory regime continues to be the norm under the Biden administration.”
Biggs highlights a DHS grant program that, he says, provides funding to organizations that “openly demonize and equate mainstream conservatism with domestic terrorism,” adding that it’s Mayorkas’ “duty to stop this un-American politically motivated targeting of ideas.”
The letter refers to a story first reported by Fox News Digital in May showing how DHS is doling out taxpayer money through an anti-terrorism grant initiative to a university program whose work has explicitly targeted the American political right.
The Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, obtained documents through Freedom of Information Act requests spotlighting controversial recipients of DHS’s Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program (TVTP). The government initiative provides funds to various public, private, and non-profit institutions — such as universities and county governments — “to establish or enhance capabilities to prevent targeted violence and terrorism.” Grant applicants must be based in the U.S. and implement a U.S.-based program.
The Biden administration has awarded 80 grants through the TVTP totaling just under $40 million. DHS named one of its TVTP goals as “media literacy and online critical thinking initiatives,” which many grantees listed as the mission of their projects.
One grantee was the University of Dayton for its PREVENTS-OH program, which DHS awarded $352,109 to “draw on the expertise of the University of Dayton faculty” to fight “domestic violence extremism and hate movements.”
The university’s grant application submitted to DHS linked in a footnote to a controversial Dayton conference where an academic researcher presented a chart titled the “Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization.”
Among the organizations and movements displayed on the pyramid were the Republican Party, the Heritage Foundation, the American Conservative Union, Fox News, Breitbart News, the National Rifle Association, PragerUniversity, Tea Party Patriots, the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement, the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement, and the Christian Broadcasting Network.
The pyramid also included hate groups like The Base, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group, and the Daily Stormer, a pro-Nazi publication, seemingly comparing them to mainstream organizations such as the GOP.
In 2021, the University of Dayton held a seminar called “Extremism, Rhetoric, and Democratic Precarity” featuring several experts on extremism who compared mainstream conservatives to genocidal extremists.
The university’s grant application to DHS linked to video of the conference, describing it as indicative of the university’s work “to assess regional needs and capacities for violent extremism prevention” and directing government evaluators to view it for more information.
One speaker at the conference presented the “Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization.” Another compared the Trump administration to the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia that killed an estimated 1.5 million-2 million people from 1975-79. A third presenter compared Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposing a volunteer civilian military force to assist the National Guard in emergencies such as hurricanes to the Nazis’ Holocaust during World War II.
Another speaker at the event was a DHS official who appeared virtually in his official capacity to deliver a short presentation.
“Extremism, Rhetoric, and Democratic Precarity” wasn’t the only controversial conference conducted by the University of Dayton. At a separate seminar titled “White Nationalism Workshop,” the same researcher who presented the “Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization” spoke and explained how “antifascists” could “de-platform” alleged fascists — comparing them to the mainstream political right — by surveilling, infiltrating and physically confronting them.
At the same event, another professor displayed images of anti-COVID lockdown and anti-vaccine mandate protesters, suggesting they were infiltrated by hate groups.
In order to promote its work to the city of Dayton, PREVENTS-OH sent the city an image, named Anti-Rights Movements and Democratic Regression, featuring a caricature of a Second Amendment supporter above the words “Why do we have a radicalized society.”
Both DHS and the university of Dayton noted the controversial conferences were separate from, and pre-dated DHS awarding money to, PREVENTS-OH, adding they don’t target or discriminate against groups expressing their constitutional rights. Neither addressed the fact that the school included the seminars in its grant application, which DHS reviewed.
“President Biden’s authoritarian Department of Homeland Security is weaponizing limited taxpayer money and department resources to crush conservatives in America,” Biggs told Fox News Digital. “This department appears to be taking guidance directly from George Orwell’s 1984 novel, in which a police state controls all speech and pummels all dissenters. America must never become that society.”
“Secretary Mayorkas must answer my questions in full and justify why a multi-million-dollar counter-terrorism program designed to prevent the next Osama Bin Laden is being used to prey on innocuous conservatives,” the congressman added.
Biggs’ letter poses 16 questions about TVTP grants and DHS’s approach to extremism and terrorism, requesting answers by June 11.
The letter also calls out DHS for awarding seminars led by “extremists” rather than targeting groups that “promote and amplify civil unrest and racial violence like Antifa and Black Lives Matter.”
The document adds that the Biden administration shouldn’t be awarding grants relating to combatting domestic radicalization to organizations and municipalities that “lack the ability to discern between speech and legitimate political decisions they disagree with and domestic terrorism.”
In the letter, Biggs calls it “especially concerning” that TVTP grants were very much on the radar of DHS leadership. Mayorkas called the program a “high priority” in a document obtained by the Media Research Center.
“Secretary Mayorkas thanked the grantees for their work, and he reassured all in attendance that this program is a priority for the department and that the work being done is of the highest importance,” the Maryland Department of Emergency Management wrote in its notes and documentation of the 2022 TVTP Grantee Symposium, which Mayorkas hosted.
In a statement provided to Fox News Digital, a DHS spokesperson rejected the notion that the department is targeting political opponents for expressing their views or supporting others engaging in such discrimination.
“DHS does not profile, target, or discriminate against any individual for exercising their constitutional rights protected by the First Amendment,” the spokesperson said. “The Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevent Grant Program has been administered across several administrations, and it provides funding for communities to expand their prevention and intervention activities or address gaps in current prevention capabilities.”
Biggs’ letter comes amid calls for Mayorkas to resign due to his handling of the ongoing crisis at the country’s southern border. Several Republican lawmakers have pushed the idea of impeaching him for allegedly neglecting his duties.
Biggs and his letter’s co-signers weren’t the only ones to take note of Fox News Digital’s reporting on DHS’s grant to the University of Dayton.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also highlighted the story on his podcast earlier this week.
“It’s the latest example of the Biden administration being more than happy to weaponize the federal government to use the powers of the federal government to target you,” said Cruz. “They’re engaged in propaganda, and the propaganda is saying that anyone right of center is a terrorist, anyone right of center is a Nazi, anyone right of center is a Klansman. It is the vicious lie that the radical left pushes often… why is the government funding this? They’re funding it because they want to give fuel to the fire attacking those they view as enemies of the regime.”
Cruz called out what he described as a double standard of many academics and U.S. officials targeting conservatives but not looking more into radical groups such as Antifa. He added that both the House and Senate should hold hearings on this issue to examine that taxpayer money is being spent responsibly on anti-extremism programs.
DHS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.