Posted by on August 09, 2012 in Blog

Earlier this week Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was pointedly asked whether he would condemn Michele Bachmann’s witch-hunt against Arab American and American Muslim public servants. Romney refused, saying “I’m not going to tell other people what things to talk about. Those are not things that are part of my campaign.” This refusal to show leadership is troubling, but was dismissed by many as simply the former governor attempting to avoid controversy. The story broke recently, however, that the day before Romney refused to condemn Bachmann’s allegations, he held a closed door meeting with some of the witch-hunt’s most avid supporters and some of this country’s most prolific espousers of vitriolic hate speech.

Politico reported that on Thursday, August 2nd, Romney met with a group of five right-wing activists. A closer look at the names reveals that three of these activists – Gary Bauer, James Dobson, and Tony Perkins – were none other than the signatories of a letter to John Boehner praising Bachmann’s “good judgment, undeniable courage, and great patriotism” for “bravely demanding answers to matters essential to the safety of the American people and our Armed Forces.” These cheerleaders for Bachmann’s witch-hunt were hardly the most disturbing presence at this closed door session with Romney. Also present was former Lt. Gen. William Boykin, who for years has lead an effort to drive American Muslims from public life altogether.

Gen. Boykin first garnered national attention for receiving a public rebuke from then president George W. Bush for attacking Islam while in a position of leadership at the Pentagon. Now retired, Boykin devotes his time to fighting imagined threats of sharia law and assorted Islamist infiltrators. He has famously claimed that Islam “should not be protected under the 1st amendment” and that there should be “no mosques in America.”  In 2010, he joined forces with Frank Gaffney, the inspiration for Bachmann’s witch-hunt, and other anti-Muslim activists to form “Team B II,” a group dedicated to rooting out Islamist infiltration. The original Team B was a group commissioned by the CIA in the 70s to analyze threats posed by the Soviet Union, an association which almost seems to invite comparisons to Joe McCarthy. The group issued a report entitled, “Sharia: The Threat to America,” which was praised by Bachmann and Rep. Trent Franks and would later be cited in her letters to various government agencies.

If Romney had merely refused to repudiate Bachmann, he would only be facing questions about his courage and leadership. Instead, by meeting with the likes of Gen. Boykin, he has tacitly endorsed hate speech and xenophobic paranoia. Romney needs to realize that in a position of leadership, silence on such issues amounts to an endorsement and perpetuates fear and even potential violence against American Muslims.

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