Gary Sick earned a bachelor’s degree from Kansas University in 1957, a master's degree from George Washington University in 1970, and a PhD from Columbia University in 1973. He went on to serve on the National Security Council under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter (1976-81), and, briefly, Ronald Reagan. From 1982 to 1987, Sick was the Ford Foundation’s deputy director for international affairs, where he was responsible for programs relating to U.S. foreign policy. In 1994-95 he served as executive director of the Columbia University-sponsored Gulf/2000 Project, whose primary objective was to establish a “network of specialists from every Gulf country and throughout the world to exchange information and expertise on important issues, regardless of political or ideological affiliation.” Among Gulf/2000's funders were the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Open Society Institute, and the Exxon-Mobile Foundation.
Today Sick is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, as well as a senior researcher at Columbia's Middle East Institute. Sick also has a number of other notable affiliations:
is perhaps best known for popularizing the “October
conspiracy theory which, as he wrote in a 1991 editorial in The
New York Times, alleged
associated with the Reagan-Bush [presidential] campaign of 1980 met secretly with
Iranian officials to delay the release of the American hostages until
after the U.S. election [in hopes that the
unresolved crisis would harm the re-election bid of incumbent President
Jimmy Carter]. For this favor,
Iran was rewarded with a substantial supply of arms from Israel.”
This theory gained great public notoriety, even leading former President Carter to call for an investigation. In 1992, Sick expanded his assertions in the book October Surprise: America’s Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan, where he described Reagan’s victory as a “covert political coup.” Under scrutiny, however, the October Surprise conspiracy has been all but unanimously discredited by a wide range of sources including Newsweek and The New Republic. Director Oliver Stone once gave Sick hundreds of thousands of dollars for the movie rights of the October Surprise story, but he eventually scrapped the project as the theory was shown to be inauthentic.
In more recent years, Sick, who authored the 1985 book All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter With Iran, has become a devoted ally to the repressive Islamic fundamentalist regime in Tehran. He served a stint as a board member of the American Iranian Council, the chief lobbying group for Iran in the United States. He has vigorously championed the notion that America should pursue direct diplomacy with Iran, and it was largely as a result of Sick's influence that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to speak at Columbia University in 2007.
Sick's apologetics for Iran's totalitarian theocracy has a long history:
Sick maintains a personal blog called Gary’s Choices. Although his writing indicates that he has become somewhat more critical of Ahmadinejad than in the past, his broader views have not changed appreciably.