When Will Media Ask Romney About Muslim Brotherhood Conspiracy His Campaign Surrogates Support?

Fox News' Greta van Susteren last night became the sixth journalist to interview Mitt Romney without asking him about the conservative conspiracy theory alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood is using supposed ties to an aide for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to infiltrate the U.S. government. Two surrogates for Romney's campaign have defended that conspiracy during the past week, while Republican leaders like John Boehner and John McCain have condemned it.

On June 13, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) sent letters to several Inspectors General asking for an investigation into “the direct influence within the intelligence community of Muslim Brotherhood operatives.” In her letter, Bachmann referenced Huma Abedin, the State Department's deputy chief of staff and a longtime Clinton aide. Bachmann claimed that Abedin “has three family members” who are “connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives.”

CNN's Anderson Cooper has noted that “neither Congresswoman Bachmann nor her four colleagues have actually provided credible evidence, just insinuations.” Similarly, The Atlantic investigated the allegations and found that “from person to person, you kind of have to do a somersault to get from Huma Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood.” Bachmann's allegations have been condemned by the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, among others. 

Former ambassador (and Fox News contributor) John Bolton, who has endorsed Romney and has a formal role with the campaign as a surrogate, defended Bachmann's letter during a July 24 appearance on the radio show of Frank Gaffney, a birther who has been one of the driving forces in conservative media behind the Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy. Bolton said of the controversy: “What is wrong with raising the question? Why is even asking whether we are living up to our standards a legitimate area of congressional oversight, why has that generated this criticism? I'm just mystified by it.”

Since Bolton defended Bachman's Muslim Brotherhood attacks, Romney has been interviewed by Van Susteren, ABC's David Muir, NBC's Brian Williams, CBS' Jan Crawford, and CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Piers Morgan. He was not asked about the story by any of these journalists. The Romney campaign limited access to the candidate during his trip, so one-on-one interviews were the only significant opportunities for reporters to ask him questions.

On July 29, former Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich became the second Romney campaign surrogate to defend the attacks, writing in an op-ed in Politico:

The recent assault on the National Security Five is only the most recent example of the fear our elites have about discussing and understanding radical Islamists.

When an orchestrated assault is launched on the right to ask questions in an effort to stop members of Congress from even inquiring about a topic -- you know the fix is in.

At a Romney campaign event on July 30, Gingrich continued to defend Bachmann's letter, stating “Who's offering advice to Secretary Clinton? I think it's totally legitimate to ask that question.”

By contrast, several leading Republicans have condemned the campaign:

  • In a June 18 speech on the floor of the Senate, Sen. John McCain said, “These allegations about Huma and the report from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant.”
  • Speaker John Boehner said on June 19 that Abedin “has a sterling character and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous”
  • Sen. Marco Rubio said on June 19, “Everyone I talk to who has dealt with her, [says Huma Abedin is] a professional and hardworking and patriotic American who loves her country and in the service of her country is serving it.”

Prominent conservative media figures have nonetheless promoted the conspiracy, including Rush Limbaugh, Dana Loesch and Sean Hannity.

Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and is effectively head of the party. Leaders and prominent figures in his party -- including those directly involved in his campaign -- have weighed in on the conspiracy theory from either side. The media should be asking him for his point of view.