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history repeating itself

Republicans Turn on Bachmann, Condemn ‘McCarthyistic Witch Hunt’ Against Clinton Aide

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 09:  Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) addresses the the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 9, 2012 in Washington, DC. Thousands of conservative activists are attending the annual gathering in the nation's capital.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Michelle Bachmann has made plenty of false statements in the past, which range from being merely amusing (incorrectly naming New Hampshire as the state where the Revolutionary War began) to extremely harmful (scientists say her suggestion that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation was a serious public health setback). Today we learned that there actually is a limit to the batty claims her colleagues will tolerate, and she's exceeded it. Following John McCain's passionate defense of Huma Abedein after Bachmann claimed she has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, some other top Republicans have turned against her as well, saying they won't stand by while the representative goes on a "McCarthyistsic witch hunt."

In June, Bachmann and four Republican colleagues sent letters to several federal intelligence and security agencies requesting an investigation into the possible infiltration of the American government by the Muslim Brotherhood. They contain claims that Abedin's late father, brother, and mother were affiliated with the organization and suggest she may be a terrorist sympathizer.

Whether as a result of the outrageousness of the claim, Abedin's distinguished career in government, or the feeling that she's suffered enough being married to Anthony Weiner, on Thursday several notable Republicans condemned the allegations. Senator Lindsey Graham called her comments "ridiculous."  Senator Marco Rubio said he doesn't agree with the charges and is "very very careful and cautious about ever making accusations like that." House Speaker John Boehner said from what he knows Abedin has a "sterling character," and the claims are "pretty dangerous." Ed Rollins, Bachmann's former campaign manager said, “I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level.” And fellow Minnesotan Representative Keith Ellison, who happens to be the first Muslim elected to Congress, said she's failed to produce any evidence to back up her "McCarthyistic witch hunt."

Bachmann repeated her accusations today on Glenn Beck's radio show, though she said she isn't implying that Abedin is working for the Muslim Brotherhood, just that she should be investigated. She also suggested that Ellison criticized her because he's affiliated with the organization (he denies this).

In the past Bachmann hasn't suffered many consequences for spouting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories (unless you count losing the Republican presidential nomination). She remains on the House Intelligence Committee and as Politico notes, she's raised $1.72 million for her reelection campaign, making her one of the House's top fund-raisers. Things may be different now that lawmakers in her own party are turning on her. That handful of Republicans is being praised in the media for "courageously" condemning Bachmann's statements. Yet, if Ellison's right that "we learned something" from the McCarthy era, shouldn't all lawmakers be up in arms about the baseless allegation that an American citizen may be a terrorist ally?

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Photo: Win McNamee/2012 Getty Images