By Julian Pecquet - 07/30/12 07:33 PM EDT
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday slammed House Republicans who suggested one of her top aides has links to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, saying there is “no place in our politics” for such “assaults.”
Clinton was marking the release of the State Department's annual report on religious freedom around the world when she was asked to comment about the allegations against her deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin. Five House Republicans have asked the State Department's deputy inspector general to probe Abedin's alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a request that has been condemned by some leaders of their own party.
Clinton has mostly kept silent about the allegations, although State Department spokesman Philippe Reines has previously denounced them as "nothing but vicious and disgusting lies,” adding that “anyone who traffics in them should be ashamed of themselves.”
The House members who made the allegations — Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) — have doubled down, accusing the media of focusing solely on Abedin instead of the broader risk of Islamist infiltration of government.
The remarks have been criticized by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who took to the Senate floor to denounce the accusations as "specious and degrading attacks."
These latest allegations surfaced after the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won the presidential elections in Egypt, forcing a reevaluation of U.S. ties to the Arab world's most populous country.
In her comments, Clinton called religious freedom a “bedrock priority” of the Obama administration's foreign policy.
“As I told the Christians with whom I met [when visiting Cairo earlier this month], the United States does not take the side of one political party over another,” she said. “What we do is stand firmly on the side of principles.”
Clinton said the United States was ready to work with Egypt's democratically elected leaders, but reaffirmed that “our engagement with those leaders will be based on their commitment to universal human rights and universal democratic principles.”