Fact Sheet

Michele Bachmann's McCarthy-esque hunt for Islamist infiltrators: A guide

The Minnesota Tea Partier and other GOP House members spark a backlash by accusing Hillary Clinton's aide of assisting the Muslim Brotherhood

This week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and four other conservative members of the House were roundly assailed by both Republicans and Democrats for demanding an investigation of Huma Abedin, a Muslim aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In a letter to the State Department, Bachmann and her cohort claimed that Abedin's family — including her dead father — had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a decades-old Islamist group that is currently engaged in a power struggle in Egypt. Bachmann's letter expressed concern that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the U.S. government, and was influencing its foreign policy through Abedin. Here, a guide to the controversy:

Who is Huma Abedin?
Abedin, 37, is of Pakistani descent and has close ties to the Clinton family, with Hillary and Bill often describing her as a daughter. She has long been Hillary Clinton's aide, both at the State Department and during Clinton's time in the Senate. Abedin is married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who resigned in disgrace last year after his risqué communications with several women came to light.

Who made the allegations against Abedin?
In addition to Bachmann, Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) signed the letter to the State Department. In implicating Abedin, they cited an investigation conducted by the Center for Security Policy, a right-wing think tank. They said recent U.S. policies that supposedly favored the Muslim Brotherhood "appear to be a result of influence operations by individuals and organizations associated" with the group, specifically Abedin.

Is there any evidence to back their claim?
No. "It's like a bizarre game of six degrees of separation," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the country's first Muslim congressman, tells CBS News. Bachmann claims that Abedin's father, "who has been dead for two decades, knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in some unspecified way!"

How have other politicians responded?
With near-universal condemnation. The State Department said the allegations were "vicious and disgusting lies." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took to the floor of the Senate to defend Abedin's character, and said the attacks "have no logic, no basis, and no merit." House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blasted Bachmann's allegations as dangerous. And Ed Rollins, Bachmann's former campaign manager, said the Minnesotan's witch hunt "reaches the late Sen. Joe McCarthy level."

Has Bachmann apologized?
No. She says she will "not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies," and is demanding an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sources: CBS News, Fox NewsThe New York Times, Outside the Beltway, Salon, Think ProgressThe Washington Post

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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