WASHINGTON — Rep. Michele Bachmann is facing a public firestorm over her accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the federal government and working for “America’s demise.”
Her attacks, including one directed at Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, prompted Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, to denounce her from the Senate floor on Wednesday, where he defended Abedin and called Bachmann’s comments “specious and degrading.”
The State Department also weighed in, saying Bachmann’s remarks were “vicious and disgusting lies.”
Bachmann’s public campaign against radical Islamic influence in American life has been building for weeks, starting with a series of letters to oversight agencies at five separate federal departments. In them, she requested formal investigations into what she says are “influence operations” by the Brotherhood, an Islamic political organization.
The third-term Republican congresswoman, who has been challenged to produced specific evidence for her allegations, so far has gotten a cool response from agency heads. Meanwhile, she’s being accused by some of launching a McCarthy-style witchhunt against Muslim-Americans.
Despite the backlash, Bachmann doubled down on her efforts Wednesday, alleging that the Obama administration “appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces.”
Bachmann has long been a lightning rod of criticism from the left, but her public campaign against what she calls a “deep penetration” into government circles by Islamic radical groups is being met with denunciations from both sides of the political aisle.
Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim in Congress, went on CNN Tuesday night to fire back at Bachmann just as she was warning of the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Obama administration in a keynote speech at a Washington summit of Christians United for Israel, a staunchly pro-Israel evangelical group.
“This is McCarthyism at its worst,” Ellison told the Star Tribune Wednesday, referring to the late Sen. Joe McCarthy, whose name became synonymous in the 1950s with his accusations of Communist infiltration in all walks of American life. “This is one of those moments when you can’t stay silent,” Ellison said.
Bachmann came to national prominence during the 2008 presidential campaign, when she questioned Obama’s “anti-American” associations in a television interview with MSNBC host Chris Matthews. But this is the first time she has questioned the loyalty of a specific individual in Obama’s administration, warning that Abedin has “routine access to the secretary and to policy-making.”
McCain defended Abedin in personal terms, calling her a “hard-working and loyal servant of our country and our government.
“These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit,” McCain said. “They need to stop now.”
In a letter to Bachmann on Wednesday, Ellison demanded a “full accounting” of the sources of her allegations.
Bachmann’s original letters, sent out June 13, all cite research by a group called the Center for Security Policy, founded by Frank Gaffney, a controversial figure who has feuded with figures of both the left and right, including conservative icon Grover Norquist, who accused him of bigotry.
Gaffney, who writes widely about the threat of Shariah, or Islamic law, in the United States, has said he was an informal foreign policy consultant in Bachmann’s recent presidential bid.