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Foreign policy was one of the issues that came up when U.S. Senate candidate Benjamin "Barry" Hinckley was interviewed on "State of the State," a cable television public affairs program that aired April 21 and 22.
Hinckley, a Republican, was critical of foreign aid, and specifically questioned one of the aid decisions of the Obama administration. He was struggling a bit as he made his point, but here's what he said:
"Obama gave the Muslim Brotherhood a million [then correcting himself] a billion and a half dollars last week, you know, in Egypt. We need that money here. A billion and a half dollars could really help Rhode Island, quite frankly. We probably need it, in my opinion, more than the Muslim Brotherhood needs it . . . especially when the Muslim Brotherhood got together, I think one of the first things they did, when they convened their new congress, was to make Israel enemy #1. And we give them a billion and a half dollars? That's a problem in my book. We need to focus our resources here."
The Muslim Brotherhood has been a part of Egyptian politics -- sometimes an outlawed part -- since 1928; one of its goals is to promote Sharia law, which is the moral code and religious law of Islam.
Did the Obama administration really give the Brotherhood $1.5 billion?
It turns out that the money was actually an aid package to Egypt itself, not the Brotherhood, according to a March 22 story in The Washington Post.
We contacted Hinckley's campaign.
Spokesman Christopher McAuliffe said Hinckley "is aware that there is a pro forma difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the government of Egypt. In that light, his position could certainly have been more precise. However, I do think the basis of it is readily understandable, since the Egyptian government is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood."
For guidance on that point, we contacted some experts on Egypt.
Melani Cammett, director of the Middle East studies program at Brown University, told us that sending aid to Egypt was not the same as giving it to the Brotherhood because the Brotherhood doesn't actually control the government.
"It's true that the Muslim Brotherhood won the plurality of seats [in December elections] and when you combine them with the Salafis, which are more radical Islamists, they've won the majority of seats in the parliament," she said. "The fact of the matter is the SCAF, which is the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, still controls the government and controls the executive branch and is manipulating things in such a way that it's making it difficult for the Islamists to exert their full power as the majority in parliament."
"So the major struggle going on in Egyptian politics right now is that the SCAF, controlled by elite military officers, is not willing to relinquish power," said Cammett.
John P. Entelis, director of Middle East studies at Fordham University, said it would be "totally inaccurate" to say that $1.5 billion is going to the Muslim Brotherhood. "This is an ongoing military aid package that we've been giving to Egypt since 1979."
The aid package, according to multiple sources, includes $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic and political assistance.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Barry Hinckley said the Obama administration approved $1.5 billion to go to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
In fact, the aid package was for the nation of Egypt, not the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood may control the largest bloc of seats in parliament, but it's not even a majority. Not only that, the country itself continues, for now at least, to be controlled by the military. And more than 80 percent of the aid package is military aid.
The statement is incorrect for so many reasons, we rate it False.
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WashingtonPost.com, "U.S. resumes aid to Egypt," March 22, 2012
KUNA.net.kw, "White House releases USD 1.5 bln aid to Egypt, meets Brotherhood figures," April 5, 2012, accessed April 17, 2012
E-mails, Christopher McAuliffe, Hinckley for Senate campaign, April 17-24, 2012
Interview and e-mails, Melani Cammett, director, Middle East studies program, Brown University, April 21-23, 2012
Interview, John P. Entelis, director, Middle East studies program, Fordham University, April 24, 2012
NYTimes.com, "Once Imperiled, U.S. Aid to Egypt is Restored," March 23, 2012, accessed April 23, 2012
PolitiFact.com, "Glenn Beck says Muslim Brotherhood wants to declare war on Israel," Feb. 15, 2011, accessed April 24, 2012
TimesOfIsrael.com, "Egypt's Islamists set back in president race," Associated Press, April 15, 2012
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