Thursday, June 20, 2013
WASHINGTON - Unfazed by growing bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is broadening her allegations of Islamic infiltration in the U.S. government, accusing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group she says is seeking "America's demise."
Huma Abedin, left, deputy chief of staff and aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is shown during a 2011 meeting with leaders for the Open Government Partnership in New York.
The Associated Press
"He has a long record of being associated with (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and with the Muslim Brotherhood," Bachmann told conservative radio and TV show host Glenn Beck on Thursday night.
Ellison, a Muslim whose congressional district borders Bachmann's, said Friday that he saw Bachmann's remarks less as a personal attack than as a broadside against Muslims in public life.
Earlier in the week, Ellison was among the first to criticize Bachmann for her allegations against Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- a critique later echoed by GOP House Speaker John Boehner, who termed Bachmann's allegations "dangerous."
Ellison said of Bachmann: "I knew when I raised the issue of her unfounded accusations of disloyalty that sooner or later she was going to get around to accusing me. I will say for the record that her allegations are false."
He pointed out that Abedin would have had to pass rigorous background checks to obtain the security clearances needed for her position -- the same security clearances Bachmann now questions.
If Bachmann's allegations are not challenged, he said, "there literally could be no Muslim who could hold a position of responsibility in government."
Boehner's remarks are part of a growing wave of negative reaction from within Bachmann's own party, beginning with Arizona Sen. John McCain, who took to the Senate floor Wednesday to defend Abedin.
Bachmann sits on the House Intelligence Committee, a post she has cited in an attempt to give heft to her allegations. But that committee's chairman -- former FBI agent Mike Rogers, R-Mich. -- told USA Today that Bachmann's remarks about the Muslim Brotherhood's infiltration efforts are false. "That kind of assertion certainly doesn't comport with the Intelligence Committee, and I can say that on the record," he said.
With Republicans distancing themselves rapidly from Bachmann's remarks, many Democrats have stayed on the sidelines, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bachmann's charges of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration threaten to reignite an age-old distrust of foreigners.
"Every wave of new immigrants to America has faced a wave of ignorance and discrimination," Pelosi said. "I would have hoped that this type of discourse no longer existed in our country, but clearly we have more educating to do with respect to what America is about."
A few Bachmann defenders say the political blowback represents an overabundance of political correctness.
Citizens United President David Bossie wrote in Politico's Arena that "it would be the height of folly if, in the name of political correctness, 'diversity,' 'multiculturalism' or a fear of giving offense, the government continues to ignore what our enemies say is their intent to subvert us from within -- and evidence of their success in doing so."
Ellison said it is Bachmann who is trying to silence political opponents by questioning their loyalty and patriotism. "That's basically why people don't speak out," Ellison said. "They're afraid they will be accused."
Ellison said he won't seek an apology for himself, but did call on Bachmann to apologize to Abedin. For himself, he said, "I'm not upset. I can take it. I do this for a living. I'm more worried about people who can't fight back."
In Minnesota, Ellison's allies lined up to support him, while Bachmann's Republican House colleagues remained silent.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., called Bachmann's attack on Ellison "malicious and bigoted."
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., called Ellison "a patriotic American who's dedicated his life's work to serving the people of Minnesota, and to suggest otherwise is outrageous and offensive."
Democrat Jim Graves, a businessman who is challenging Bachmann in the fall elections, suggested that Bachmann is using the firestorm of criticism to rally her base of social conservatives to raise campaign cash.
"While it appears that she is doing so in order to raise money, her deplorable actions have only served to reinforce voters' growing suspicion that Michele Bachmann cares more about promoting her own celebrity and making a name for herself," he said.
Also Friday, the Anti-Defamation League, a leading Jewish organization, condemned Bachmann's statements, saying, "These sweeping accusations by members of Congress against American citizens who are Muslim are unfair and misguided."