Secretary Clinton, Senator McCain Condemn Anti-Muslim Attack on Abedin

Five GOP congressmen sent a letter attacking State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, falsely claiming that the Muslim American had ties to extremists. How do biased accusations harm workplace productivity?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vehemently defended her deputy chief of staff last week, after five Republican Congressional representatives falsely alleged that Muslim American Huma Abedin had ties to Islamic extremist group Muslim Brotherhood.

The congressional representatives (Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Trent Franks of Arizona, Thomas Rooney of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia) sent a 16-page letter to the State Department demanding an investigation of Abedin's alleged connections to extremists and their infiltration and influence over the U.S. government.

Abedin, who is 37 years old and of Pakistani descent, was born in the United States. Her husband, former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, is Jewish.

The letter states that Abedin's late father, mother and brother are "connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations" and "her position affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making" is cause for "serious security concerns."

Additionally, the representatives question how Abedin received her security clearance as "the foreign influence of immediate family members is such a concern to the U.S. Government that it includes these factors as potentially disqualifying conditions for obtaining a security clearance."

Keith Ellison, the first Muslim congressman, compared the allegations with 1950s McCarthyism and an unfounded witch hunt. "It's like a bizarre game of six degrees of separation. She mentions that her father, who has been dead for two decades, knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was connected to the Muslim brotherhood in some unspecified way," Ellison told CBSNews.

Clinton said, according to the Huffington Post, that it is the duty of politicians "to speak out and protect diversity in their countries."

Clinton praised other Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who have defended Abedin. She said: "We have to set an example, there is no doubt about that. And we have to continue to do so."

Abedin's sister, Heba Abedin, is promoting an online petition on her Twitter account @hebs23 and demanding an apology from Bachmann.

 Leadership Matters 

Clearly defined values, as Clinton stated, send the message to organizations they must have defined values that everyone understands.  The message at the State Department – that bigotry and the false allegations that accompany it are not allowed – comes from Clinton and is consistent. 

DiversityInc has numerous examples of why CEO commitment to diversity and inclusion matters dramatically in an organization. These include the ability to gain buy-in from everyone, including middle managers and white men, and, most importantly, instilling the value of diversity and inclusion to strategic business goals throughout the organization.

Rockwell Collins CEO, President and Chairman Clay Jones recently told DiversityInc:

"We work and have lived in pretty much a male, white dominated industry. So we had to bring in outside thoughts to educate us on how other people think to focus on the value of our differences as opposed to accentuating them for all the wrong reasons.  It was through that training that my own thinking and the thinking of our leadership team really changed."

Clinton, by publicly outing the five congressional representatives who made false accusations about Abedin, held them up to scrutiny for their actions.

Having a clear policy on what's legal as well as what's appropriate is important. Working with HR is also vital to ensure the messages are communicated to employees and there are enforceable penalties for misstatements.

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