They were long afraid to do it, but now conservatives have their knives out for Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Senators in her own party, congressional candidates, a lawmaker in her state’s delegation and leaders of the House Republican Conference are all lambasting the Minnesota Republican for saying the wife of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said merely floating the idea that Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has family ties to the radical Middle East group is “pretty dangerous.”
“I don’t know Huma, but from everything I do know of her, she has a sterling character,” Boehner said Thursday. “And I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.” Later on CNN, Boehner said he expects to speak to Bachmann soon.
Bachmann’s accusation came in a handful of letters to intelligence and national security agencies raising questions about the Muslim Brotherhood. The letters, also signed by four other Republicans, specifically mentioned Abedin, accusing her late father of having ties to the Brotherhood.
Boehner declined to answer a question about whether he would toss Bachmann off the Intelligence Committee, where she is privy to highly classified information. Behind the scenes, leadership aides said they were shaken by the comments from someone as prominent as Bachmann.
And Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, was described by several sources as incredibly angry when he heard of the incident.
The Republican backlash against Bachmann started with Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) statement on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying she had made “sinister accusations.”
Rep. Jeff Flake, a conservative Arizona lawmaker running for Senate, tweeted “Kudos to @Sen JohnMcCain for his statement on Senate floor yesterday defending Clinton aide. Well said.”
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) added, “Rep. Bachmann’s accusations about Sec. Clinton aide Huma Abedin are out-of-line. This kind of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse.”
Even the Minnesota delegation is dispensing with its characteristic niceness. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim who served in the state Legislature with Bachmann, said it’s not personal, but Bachmann is out of line.
“It’s not right to question the loyalty of fellow Americans without any evidence,” said Ellison.
Bachmann has said her letters “are unfortunately being distorted.”
And while she did not specifically mention Abedin in a follow-up comment, Bachmann is not backing down from her premise of looking into threats from the Muslim Brotherhood. “I will not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces.”
She elaborated during an interview Thursday with conservative radio host Glenn Beck.
“She is the chief aide ... to the Secretary of State,” Bachmann said of Abedin. “And we quoted from the document, and this has been well reported all across Arab media, that her late father ... was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, her brother was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and her mother was part of what’s called the Muslim Sisterhood.”
More and more Republicans seem to feel more comfortable coming out publicly against Bachmann now, perhaps because she no longer is engaged in a presidential primary and has returned to the House as a rank-and-file lawmaker.
Ed Rollins, her former presidential campaign manager, said in a post on Fox News’s website that Bachmann has “difficulty with her facts.”
Former New Jersey GOP Gov. Christine Todd Whitman wrote in POLITICO’s Arena, that “the sort of unfounded attack unleashed by Congresswoman Bachmann and her [colleagues] brings back painful memories of a low point in our history.”
Former Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a recently retired Florida Republican, said “Michele means well but she sometimes doesn’t let proven facts get in the way of a possibility of having national television coverage.”
Bachmann’s fundraising prowess remains impressive, but requests for donations seem dire. One last month was labeled “URGENT note from Michele,” and urged folks to pony up for her re-election effort against an opponent who she said “will be able to keep pouring in millions of his own money to defeat me.”
Her opponent is Jim Graves, a Minnesota businessman.
She remains a top House fundraiser, bringing in $1.8 million in the second quarter, bringing the total in her campaign account to $1.72 million. At this point in the previous cycle she had $2.4 million on hand.
The question many Republicans and Democrats ask is whether her district, outside St. Paul, truly cares about issues like the allegations she made regarding Abedin.
“They know what she says, they know what she does,” fellow Minnisotan Ellison said. “Her district knows her. They know her well. We came into this place together. My district knows me, her district knows her. I guess they either like what she’s saying or they don’t dislike it enough to get rid of her.”
Jake Sherman is a reporter for POLITICO. The Post and Courier and POLITICO are sharing content for the 2012 presidential campaign cycle.