Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slammed Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for "specious and degrading attacks" on Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff, who Bachmann accused of infiltrating the US government on behalf of radical Islamists.
Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite and Christian fundamentalist with a history of inflammatory Islamophobic statements, raised eyebrows and ire on July 9 when she accused the Muslim Brotherhood, arguably the world's most influential Islamist organization, of "deeply penetrating" the US government.
The Brotherhood is an international movement founded in Egypt which seeks to combine traditional Islam, including sharia law, with democracy in the Middle East. Long suppressed in Egypt under the Mubarak dictatorship, the group has enjoyed a massive resurgence since the Arab Spring uprising, culminating in the election of Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi as Egypt's new president. The Brotherhood was once known for militancy, but in recent decades its focus has shifted to politics.
Rep. Bachmann, along with four other far-right lawmakers, has called for an investigation of "potential Muslim Brotherhood infiltration" of the Obama administration. She wants to know how Huma Abedin, a Muslim and deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, received security clearance in light of accusations by a far-right think tank that members of Abedin's family have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The other GOP lawmakers calling for an investigation of possible Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the government are: Reps. Trent Franks (AZ), Louie Gomert (TX), Thomas Rooney (FL) and Lynn Westmoreland (GA).
In a June 13 letter, Rep. Bachmann wrote to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is a Muslim, and targeted Abedin. She claimed that three members of the Clinton aide's family were tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and that the State Department has acted in a manner that has been "enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests."
Rep. Ellison wrote back to Bachmann, asking her to substantiate her claims about Abedin. Bachmann cited the Center for Security Policy, headed by discredited Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, who Ellison said has "a long history of making unsubstantiated anti-Muslim allegations."
Indeed, Gaffney has claimed that members of the Obama administration are part of the "Iran lobby" and that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan would impose sharia law on America.
He also believes that President Obama may very well be a closeted Muslim.
Bachmann responded with a 16-page letter to Ellison, which the latter called "16 pages worth of nothing."
"It is 16 pages worth of repeated false allegations, just regurgitated nonsense," Ellison told CNN. Ellison called for a "saner, more courageous spirit [to] prevail." He said that there is absolutely no evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the government, adding that Bachmann's attack on Abedin, a "stark affront to American values," amounted to "guilt by association."
Sen. John McCain also blasted Bachmann, berating her "specious and degrading attacks" on Abedin. Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, McCain defended Abedin as he dismissed Bachmann's accusations as "unsubstantiated."
"It has been alleged that Huma Abedin, a Muslim American, is part of a nefarious conspiracy to harm the United States," McCain said.
"The allegations... and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant. These attacks have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop. They need to stop now."
"When anyone-- not least, a member of Congress-- launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our great nation and we all grow poorer because of it," he added.