NASHVILLE -- A 2014 congressional candidate from Signal Mountain, who pleaded guilty last month to federal charges he planned to assault a Muslim enclave in New York he suspected of plotting a terrorist strike, once harbored similar concerns about an alleged "jihadist training camp" in Middle Tennessee.
But Robert "Bob" Doggart, at the time an independent candidate running in the 4th Congressional District, told the Times Free Press during a Sept. 15 interview that when he went to the community outside Dover, Tenn., he didn't see much to be concerned about.
"I called the city and county mayor and went to Dover," Doggart said during the interview in which he discussed himself and campaign issues. "Turns out they were not much of a threat. I put it on my blog and said, 'Don't be concerned about this one.'"
Doggart did voice alarm about Islamic extremists in general as well as the self-styled Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. He called the group "evil personified" and demanded it be "completely destroyed."
The mustachioed 63-year-old mechanical engineer also voiced his intent to impeach President Obama if elected, calling him a "traitor" and "coward." He claimed his former work as a senior engineering specialist at the Tennessee Valley Authority saved the federal utility substantial sums at its Watts Bar and Bellefonte nuclear plants.
And he boasted he had an advantage that would aid him in his effort to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., in the November 2014 general election contest.
"Mr. DesJarlais is not a handsome man. I am," Doggart said. "That's going to get me 5,000 votes from women."
Doggart never said, however, what he would have done if the allegations he saw on any number of anti-Muslim websites were confirmed in Dover.
On April 29, Doggart pleaded guilty to plotting an attack on another small Muslim enclave, self-described as Islamberg, near Hancock, N.Y. The official charge involved interstate communication of threats.
Both the Dover, Tenn., and Hancock, N.Y., Muslim communities are affiliated with The Muslims of America, a group of black Muslims. Hancock is the group's headquarters.
In Doggart's plea agreement filed April 29 in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, the one-time Sequatchie County school board candidate admitted he spent months gathering weapons and plotting an all-out assault on the small Muslim enclave in Delaware County, New York.
Among other things, the federal government charged that Doggart, described as associated with various "private militia groups," planned to use "Molotov cocktail" fuel bombs to torch the mosque, school and cafeteria at Islamberg. And officials said that in a Facebook post Duggart stated the Muslims "must be utterly destroyed to get the attention of the American people."
"We're gonna be carrying an M4 with 500 rounds of ammunition, light armor piercing," an FBI special agent quoted Doggart stating during a taped telephone conversation. "A pistol with three extra magazines and a machete. And if it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds."
The Associated Press quoted a New York law enforcement official saying there was no reason to believe any of the allegations were "accurate."
Tennessee official: 'Never had a problem' at Dover
Rick Shipkowski, deputy homeland security adviser for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said rumors about the Dover, Tenn., "compound" are "bogus" and that this story pops its head up about every three years.
"There is a small community, Muslims of America, outside Dover," Shipkowski said. "It's often referred to as the Muslims of America 'compound.' It's a terrible description. It's a community. There are some trailers, some houses. I believe there are about 20 people."
The community is located near the Fort Campbell military base.
"They've been looked at by Fort Campbell, the FBI, our office, the Stewart County sheriff visits there periodically," Shipkowski said. Dover's police chief lives nearby and has "never had a problem," Shipkowski noted, adding that a Nashville television reporter and cameraman visited there some years back and saw nothing amiss.
"Certainly no one would allow a terrorist camp to exist right outside Fort Campbell," Shipkowski said.
Muhammad Mathew Gardener, spokesman for The Muslims of America, said in a statement posted on the group's website that "Doggart is an example of the results of unchecked and rampant Islamophobia which has spread lies for years about our peaceful community. This man plotted to mercilessly kill us, kill our children, and blow up our mosque and our school."
Gardner added that "interestingly, RSS Internet posts by Doggart on August 28, 2014, show he did in fact go to a [Muslims of America] location in Tennessee, 'I traveled to Dover, Tennessee in Stewart County yesterday' ... " He also questioned why Doggart has not been prosecuted on a terrorism-related charge.
Doggart: 'Not afraid to be called a racist because I'm not.'
Both before and during the Times Free Press interview in September, Doggart complained about lack of news coverage of his bid to unseat DesJarlais last year.
He declared "the reason I'm running is I intend to impeach the president. I want the president to go away. I would lead the charge."
He called President Barack Obama a "traitor to the Constitution," a "liar" and a "coward" who downsized the military, drew a "red line" in Syria only to retreat and had allowed Russian President Vladamir Putin to back him down repeatedly.
"I'm not afraid to be called a racist because I'm not a racist," Doggart said at one point.
Doggart said he would only be spending his own money in the campaign in the contest that featured DesJarlais and Democrat Lenda Sherrell. The Federal Election Commission's website shows he never filed any candidate financial disclosures, possibly suggesting he fell below the required threshold.
As for DesJarlais, Doggart said he had "done nothing" in Congress. But while the congressman would outspend him, Doggart declared he was more handsome and that was good for at least 5,000 votes from women. It was not clear whether he was joking or not.
He predicted he would get at least 15,000 votes. In the end, 9,246 people in the sprawling, largely rural congressional district voted for Doggart. That was 6.35 percent of the total ballots cast, records show.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.