(CBS)-- Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann continues to draw fire for charging that a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ties to Muslim extremists. The criticism is coming from Republican lawmakers like House Speaker John Boehner, as well as Democrats, and includes a scathing response from her own former presidential campaign chief, Ed Rollins.
Bachmann on Wednesday said she would not back down from accusations suggesting that Clinton's aide Huma Abedin could have ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and that the group is trying to infiltrate the U.S. government. Even as Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona took to the Senate floor to admonish the congresswoman, Bachmann said she will "not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces."
(McCain defends Clinton aide from "sinister" Bachmann attacks in video to left.)
The criticism stems from a letter Bachmann and four other Republican members of Congress sent to top intelligence and security officials last week questioning the Muslim Brotherhood's access to top Obama administration officials. Abedin -- who the Clintons have described as a like a daughter to them -- was singled out in the letter.
Asked Thursday whether he shares Bachmann's concerns about Abedin, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that "accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous."
In a column published on FoxNews.com Wednesday afternoon, Rollins called Bachmann's charges against Abedin "extreme and dishonest" and blasted her "reckless behavior."
"Having worked for Congressman Bachmann's campaign for president, I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level," he wrote, referencing McCarthy's false charges from the 1950's that Communists and Soviet spies had infiltrated the State Department.
The State Department similarly called Bachmann's charges "vicious and disgusting lies."
Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, told CBS News that Bachmann's charges are reminiscent of McCarthyism. "This is the same exact thing, and our country has gone through a McCarthy period -- we cannot allow America to go through another one."
(In interview with CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes, Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) compares Bachmann to McCarthy.)
A few other Republicans have also spoken out against the charges.
GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts wrote on Twitter, "Rep. Bachmann's accusations about Sec. Clinton aide Huma Abedin are out-of-line. This kind of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse."
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, told Politico the attacks were "ridiculous." Abedin, he said, "is about as far away from the Muslim Brotherhood view of women and ideology as you possibly could get. She's a very modern woman in every sense of the word, and people who say these things are really doing her a disservice because they don't know what they're talking about, and I don't know what their motivations are, but clearly it says more about them than it does her."
On Thursday morning on NPR's Diane Rehm show, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said, "I don't share the feelings that are in that letter. Obviously, every member of Congress has a right to express their opinion and every member of Congress is held accountable for their opinion, if they're right or if they're wrong... I'm very very careful and cautious about ever making accusations like that about anyone."
Abedin, 37, is deputy chief of staff to Clinton and has been one of her closest aides for nearly two decades. She was born in the U.S. and is of Pakistani descent and is married to former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Weiner, who resigned in disgrace last year, thanked McCain in an email Wednesday for speaking out, the Washington Post reports.
"My family and I are grateful to Senator McCain," Weiner said. "I think he spoke for many Americans in expressing his disgust for the charge against my wife."