Tea Party Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Steve King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) returned from Tripoli, Libya, on Wednesday, after a trip to probe the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The trip comes as a shock to many due to the three Congress members history of Islamophobic remarks and insistence that there was a government cover-up of the Benghazi attacks.
The Libya Herald reported that the trio arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday to discuss the Benghazi attacks and the current state of Libya with General National Congress members and Congress President Abu Sahmain. They reportedly also met with United States diplomats to discuss increased security at American holdings in the nation.
While photos of the event show the three Congress members smiling politely with Libyan politicians, the visit to Libya is somewhat baffling. Bachmann, King and Gohmert all have a well-documented history of anti-Islamic statements that could wind up further damaging relations with the nation rather than improving them.
On the same day Bachmann arrived in Tripoli, she also published a piece in Daily News Egypt praising Egypt’s ban of the Muslim Brotherhood and arguing that both Egypt and the United States should brand the organization a terrorist group. Though the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt and remains strongly associated with the area, it is an international organization with chapters worldwide, including a political party in Libya. Nowhere in the piece did Bachmann acknowledge the Muslim Brotherhood’s official presence in Libyan politics.
The Egyptian and Libyan chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood are distinct but related groups, and Bachmann appears not to distinguish between them and did not acknowledge the Brotherhood’s presence in Libya the day she visited. In 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated party, the Justice and Construction Party, won 17 of 80 available legislature seats, and it now controls some eight percent of all seats. The Muslim Brotherhood may not be the most powerful political force in Libya, but it has a significant presence in the nation.
During her ill-fated run for president, Bachmann made another gaffe related to Libya, apparently forgetting that the nation is even in Africa. During a debate, Bachmann claimed that President Obama “put us in Libya” and “is now putting us in Africa” as if the two were unrelated.
Bachmann isn't the only one of the trio who made remarks that could potentially offend the Muslim world, including the very Libyans they met. Gohmert, along with Bachmann, called for an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood’s possible infiltration of the United States government. King, who remains adamant that the Obama administration covered up crucial details about the Benghazi attacks, called the supposed cover-up 10 times worse than Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
“I believe that it’s a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe 10 or so, you’re going to get in the zone where Benghazi is,” King said.
Some Libyan commentators have already condemned Bachmann, King and Gohmert’s visit to Tripoli as a cynical effort to draw more attention to their concerns over the Benghazi attacks.
“These 3 congress members do not care about Libya,” columnist M Elashhab wrote for Libya.tv. “They have used ‘Benghazi’ as a political buzz word to try and drive down President Obama’s approval ratings, stir fake outrage and push forward their failed political agenda. The only outcome of this visit will be fake moral outrage and more calls for investigations.”
Eric Brown is an IBTimes political reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn.