After the backlash when chicken hawk Donald Trump mocked the mother of American hero Capt. Humayun Khan, you might think he’d at least pause before launching another hateful attack on a grieving Muslim woman. But there he was Monday suggesting that Huma Abedin, top aide to Hillary Clinton and wounded wife of Anthony Weiner, was somehow tied to radical Islamic groups.
The media has largely ignored Trump’s remarks, as if a famous Muslim American being smeared with a false connection to terror by the Republican presidential candidate is not worthy of coverage. But this vicious attack is very much a story—one that says nothing at all about Abedin and a great deal about Trump.
While his campaign has succeeded to some extent in putting a leash on its candidate, forcing him to deliver pre-approved speeches read from a teleprompter, the real deal—the one who’s built his appeal on sexism, bigotry, and racism—keeps oozing out.
Trump’s first comment about Abedin was no doubt drafted by his handlers desperately trying to attract female voters. In a prepared statement released just after Abedin announced Monday that she was separating from Weiner, the serially disgraced former congressman, Trump said: “Huma is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him.” From there, he attacked Hillary Clinton’s judgment but didn’t cast any aspersions on Abedin.
But later that day Trump spoke for himself, and showed his true colors—the same ones that gave us his racist attacks on American judges, bully-boy mocking of a disabled reporter, and taunts about women’s faces and bodies. While appearing on a conservative radio show in Seattle, Trump suggested Abedin was somehow in league with radical Islamic groups: “You know, by the way, take a look at where she worked, by the way, and take a look at where her mother worked and works. You take a look at the whole event.”
The GOP presidential nominee was now bringing to the forefront conspiracy theories supposedly tying Abedin to Islamic terror groups or at least putting her in sympathy with their views, something Trump supporter Michele Bachmann first began promoting back in 2012. Bachmann was immediately ridiculed for this baseless claim, concocted by the likes of anti-Muslim bigot Frank Gaffney. Even Republicans like Sen. John McCain publicly defended Abedin: “These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit, and they need to stop now.”
They haven’t stopped. Instead Trump supporters have been amplifying them, with Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin asking just last week: “Why aren’t we talking about Huma and her ties to the Muslim Brotherhood? Why aren’t we talking about the fact that she was an editor for a Sharia newspaper?”
Well, as The Washington Post scored it, Duffy’s allegation that Abedin was part of the Muslim Brotherhood or connected to some radical Islamic publication earned the full four Pinocchios. The publication Duffy referenced and Trump again raised Monday in an effort to smear Abedin is The Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. As fact checkers have noted, it’s a “staid academic journal” that examines Muslim minority sects and Muslims who live as minorities in countries.
True, Abedin’s mother was the editor and Huma was listed as an assistant editor from 1996 to 2008. But was this journal in any way radical? Well, Noah Feldman, director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School, told The Washington Post, “I wouldn’t consider it ‘radical.’ Quite the contrary.” Other academics familiar with the publication echoed Feldman’s views.
A week after numerous media outlets discredited the idea the publication was tied to radical Islamic groups, there was Trump raising that very issue. Which, sadly, is anything but surprising given how he’s made demonizing Muslims one of the planks of his campaign.
Ben Carson actually got there first, shooting up in the GOP polls after he declared that no Muslim should ever be president.
Trump took notice, saying that Carson’s “been getting a lot of ink on the Muslims… And I guess people look at that and they probably like it.” It was not long after that we heard Trump call for surveilling Muslims, closing mosques, issuing Muslim ID cards, and finally his infamous Muslim ban.
All that, of course, came years after Trump’s racist birther campaign to paint President Obama as an un-American secret Muslim. With Abedin, he’s simply graduating to arguing that an actual Muslim is a secret radical one, presumably as a way to tie Clinton to those same groups. The names change, but Trump’s disgusting M.O. remains the same.
The human impact of Trump’s loud whisper campaign about Abedin is to make Americans suspicious that any Muslim—even one who has worked for years in our government and been thoroughly vetted—is somehow tied to radicals or terrorism.
Smearing Abedin as she is dealing with her public and painful separation from her husband is despicable. So is smearing all Muslims as inherently suspicious or worse. We’ll see how much lower Trump can sink, how much more hate and suspicion he can spew, in the weeks between now and November.