“Frank Gaffney is someone I respect,” Ted Cruz said Monday, defending his foreign policy advisor. Frank Gaffney is a serious thinker.” Frank Gaffney thinks that President Barack Obama, Governor Chris Christie, and longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin are part of a secret Muslim conspiracy.

Cruz was speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, and repeatedly avoided opportunities to distance himself from Gaffney’s more delusional ideas.

[There was a video here]

“I don’t know what he said in 2009,” Cruz said, after Blitzer read him a quote about Obama being America’s first Muslim president. “I just read it to you,” Blitzer said. “I don’t have the full context,” Cruz said.

Gaffney has been an influential figure in this campaign for some time: In December, Donald Trump cited a (deeply flawed) study conducted by the Center for Security Policy, of which Gaffney is the head, in support of his proposal to temporarily ban immigration of Muslims to the United States. Trump sang the CSP’s praises at a campaign event in South Carolina, calling it “very highly respected.” “I know them, actually,” he said.

“We’re witnessing not just the violent kind of jihad that these Islamists believe God compels them to engage in, but also, where they must for tactical reasons, a more stealthy kind, or civilizational jihad as the Muslim Brotherhood calls it,” Gaffney told Newsmax in 2011. “We’re witnessing that playing out, not only in places in the Middle East but also in Europe, in Australia, in Canada and here in the United States as well.”

Later in December, CSP hosted the National Security Action Summit, in Nevada, ahead of the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas. In addition to Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina were also in attendance, as were as Rick Santorum and Herman Cain and a number of other government officials. Topics discussed included “The Hollowing Out of The U.S. Military” and “The Threat from Iran, Shariah and The Global Jihad Movement.”