Seizing on a handful of Republican members of Congress questioning Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin's supposed tenuous family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, on Thursday's NBC Today, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell used the incident to fawn over Clinton's "second daughter": "Abedin is Hillary Clinton's dear friend, closest senior aide...Elegant, glamorous, profiled in Vogue."
O'Donnell labeled the charges against Abedin – outlined in a congressional letter sent by Michele Bachmann and five other Republican House members to the State Department – as "what some are calling a sinister attack on the patriotism" of the top Clinton aide. She then hyped Republican Senator John McCain denouncing the obscure letter to what a front-page Washington Post story admitted was an "otherwise empty Senate chamber."
Near the end of her report, O'Donnell turned to Abedin's other well-known role, as the wife of disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner. The Capitol Hill reporter sympathetically read from a recent interview of Abedin:
Abedin is just emerging from another painful public storm....speaking out for the first time, in the new People magazine: "I'm proud to be married him. My husband did a really stupid thing. It was an extremely painful time. But there was love and a commitment to this marriage." And she added, "I want people to know we're a normal family." And of course Abedin has tried to have a more private life, even though she has such a public role. And that has not been easy over the last couple of years.
On Tuesday, Today show panelists Donny Deutsch and Nancy Snyderman aided in Weiner's rehabilitation by predicting that "he will get a second chance" in politics and praising him as "cuckoo smart" and "a great representative."
Coverage of the minor Abedin controversy got personal on MSNBC on Wednesday as anchor Andrea Mitchell proclaimed: "Well, we don't often jump out of our roles here but I have known this woman for years and years and years and there is no more loyal American and harder worker in the State Department and at Hillary Clinton's side in all parts of the world."
Moments later, Mitchell slammed Bachmann and the others as she asked Politico's Jim Vandehei: "How do you say Joe McCarthy?"
Here is a full transcript of O'Donnell's July 19 report:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And now to some shocking claims about the background of a long-time aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she is also the wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner. On Wednesday, Republican Senator John McCain came to her defense. NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell has this story for us. Kelly, good morning to you.
KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Savannah. This is an unusual story because it goes to the heart of one of Hillary Clinton's closest relationships and what some are calling a sinister attack on the patriotism of her top aide. So it was John McCain who came out swinging to say what Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, could not say publicly.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "Unwarranted and Unfounded"; McCain Defends Muslim Aide From Bachmann's Attack]
Described by the Secretary of State as her "second daughter," Huma Abedin is Hillary Clinton's dear friend, closest senior aide, and seemingly always at her side. Elegant, glamorous, profiled in Vogue. Abedin also happens to be Muslim-American and she's now swept up in controversial insinuations made by former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
MICHELE BACHMANN: And it appears that there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood.
O'DONNELL: In an official request to the Department of State, alleging "serious security concerns," Bachmann and four other Republican House members, made a specific claim: "Huma Abedin has three family members – her late father, her mother and her brother – connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives." Implying Abedin used her influence to help that powerful Islamist group. But it was another Republican who called that nonsense.
JOHN MCCAIN: These attacks have no logic, no basis and no merit. These allegations about Huma Abedin, and the report from which they are drawn, are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant.
O'DONNELL: The State Department calls the allegations "preposterous." In a statement, Bachmann said she "will not be silent" and that her inquiries are "unfortunately being distorted."
Abedin is just emerging from another painful public storm. Remember last summer? She was pregnant and her high-profile husband, then-New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, tumbled from grace, caught sending lewd photos to young women online. Now Abedin is speaking out for the first time, in the new People magazine: "I'm proud to be married him. My husband did a really stupid thing. It was an extremely painful time. But there was love and a commitment to this marriage." And she added, "I want people to know we're a normal family." And of course Abedin has tried to have a more private life, even though she has such a public role. And that has not been easy over the last couple of years. McCain went on to say, Savannah, that Abedin represents what is best about America, as the daughter of immigrants who is working hard in public good for a very long time at the side of Secretary Clinton. Savannah.
GUTHRIE: Alright, Kelly O'Donnell on Capitol Hill. Thank you.