Last week, KSFO 560 AM San Francisco conducted a little-noticed radio interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) in which the host, Lee Rogers, took issue with the fact that the voters of Minnesota were the first to elect “an openly, avowed Muslim to Congress,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). Rogers asked for Bachmann’s reaction to the fact that Ellison helped President Obama find qualified American Muslims to serve in his administration.
Finding Ellison’s efforts to promote diversity in the administration problematic, Bachmann blamed the “very liberal new media” in Minnesota for suppressing news of Ellison’s efforts. Later, Rogers asked Bachmann about a 2006 incident in which “[s]ix Muslim religious leaders were taken off a US Airways flight in Minneapolis…and detained for several hours after some passengers and crew members complained of behavior they deemed suspicious.” As the blog DumpBachmann first noted, Bachmann falsely claimed that the religious leaders were in Minneapolis to attend “Congressman Keith Ellison’s victory celebration, when he won as a member of Congress”:
BACHMANN: [Minnesota was] also were the site of the six flying imams. … The imams, the imams were actually attending, ah, Congressman Keith Ellison’s victory celebration, when he won as a member of Congress. [...]
[T]hey were shouting phrases anti-Bush, anti-America…and were making these statements and when they got aboard the airplane, they switched seats, they didn’t go to their proper seats, and they went in the pattern of the nine-one-one terrorists.
In fact, the six were not attending Ellison’s victory celebration. As the New York Times reported after the incident were on their way back from a “Minneapolis conference of the North American Imams Federation.”
Despite Bachmann’s claims, there is no evidence in any of the news reports about the incident that the six religious leaders fit the “pattern” of the 9/11 hijackers or that they were “shouting” anti-Bush or anti-American phrases. The group was detained because other passengers on their flight viewed as suspicious the fact that the group was speaking in Arabic to one another and that they had prayed in the terminal prior to boarding. After five hours of detention and interviews, federal agents released the group finding them not to be a threat.