House Majority Leader Eric Cantor broke with Speaker John Boehner and other leading Republicans today to defend Rep. Michele Bachmann’s witch hunt against Muslims in the U.S. government. Appearing on CBS "This Morning," the No. 2 Republican in the House told host Charlie Rose,"I think that if you read some of the reports that have covered the story, I think that her concern was about the security of the country.” In letters to national security agencies, Bachmann questioned whether the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the government, but the Republican chairman of the intelligence committee, on which Bachmann sits, said her concerns were unfounded.
Boehner and Sen John McCain criticized Bachmann publicly, with McCain calling Bachmann’s line of questioning intolerant and borderline un-American. But when Rose asked Cantor if he worried if there was too much intolerance coming from his party, Cantor replied, “There is equal opportunity of intolerance, unfortunately, Charlie, in this country. To me, it’s really important for us to remember that we are a country that appreciates freedom and diversity.
“I feel very strongly about the fact that we are a nation of inclusion. We’re built on the waves of immigrants that have come to these shores. I myself am a member of a minority faith and have enjoyed the ability to pursue and practice that faith unlike I could anywhere else in the world,” Cantor explained. He made similar comments in an interview with BuzzFeed last week, but it’s unclear how to square that with Bachmann’s effort.
Cantor now becomes the first leading Republican to defend Bachmann, though some lesser figures like Newt Gingrich and John Bolton, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the U.N. and a top Romney foreign policy adviser, have also backed the Minnesota Republican lawmaker. Cantor’s comments also put him on the wrong side of this issue from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and 41 other Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups who condemned Bachmann’s witch hunt in a letter yesterday.