CAIRO -- Two months after the military ousted Egypt's first elected president and began a bloody crackdown on his supporters, a delegation of House Republicans visited Cairo over the weekend to tell the new government to keep up the good work.
"We are here as members of Congress to say, 'We are with you, and we encourage you,' " Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said in a news conference broadcast over a pro-government satellite network and eagerly reported on Sunday by Egyptian state news media.
Amplifying on the new government's portrayal of its crackdown as a battle against terrorism, Mrs. Bachmann wrongly implied a link between the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group whose political party dominated elections after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and now leads the opposition to the takeover.
"We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed around the world. We stand against this great evil," she said, adding: "We remember who caused 9/11. We remember who it was that killed 3,000 brave Americans."
The United States and Egypt "have that common enemy, the terrorists who have shown themselves so recently in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood," Mrs. Bachmann continued. "We don't have a choice. They must be defeated."
Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, appearing with her and Representative Steve King of Iowa, compared the leader of the military takeover, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, to George Washington. Mr. Gohmert overlooked the new government's mass shootings of hundreds of mostly unarmed protesters, its sweeping roundup of thousands of political opponents and its suspension of all legal protection against arbitrary arrest or other police abuse; instead, he commended General Sisi and the appointed civilian leaders for creating a government where the rule of law was "king."
All three representatives vowed to defend the $1.3 billion in American military aid to Egypt so that its army could continue its fight against what Mr. Gohmert called "the bloodthirsty Muslim brothers."
President Obama has threatened to cut Egypt's military aid if the new government does not take swift steps toward a credible, inclusive democracy, including lifting its boot off the Brotherhood. But scholars said Sunday that the ill-informed comments in Cairo suggested that the outsize fears of Islamist extremism among some in Congress may be undermining the administration's efforts.
"We have a confluence of interests among the coup leaders in Egypt and Islamophobes in the Congress," said Samer Shehata, a political scientist at the University of Oklahoma who studies Egypt and the Brotherhood.
He called the lawmakers' statements "utterly absurd" and compared the conference to "a 'Saturday Night Live' skit -- unbelievable, ludicrous, almost comic if it wasn't so painful."
Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brookings Doha Center, said it was especially "concerning" that members of Congress appeared "so unaware of the basic facts of 9/11."
All three are outspoken social conservatives who previously raised alarms about alleged infiltration of the United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood as well. Mrs. Bachmann has a particular reputation for attention-grabbing statements, for instance attributing the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed an American ambassador last year to God's judgment.
Brotherhood leaders say the group has denounced the use of violence as a political tool in Egypt for a half-century. It condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which were, in fact, carried out by Al Qaeda. The Brotherhood has explicitly opposed the theology and tactics of violent Islamist groups like Al Qaeda for decades, and Al Qaeda scorns the Brotherhood for its commitment to nonviolence, elections and gradual change.
But the American lawmakers repeatedly described the Brotherhood as an Qaeda-type terrorist group. "The American people do not support the Muslim Brotherhood," Mr. King assured. "We oppose all forms of terror and terrorism."
Since the July 3 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, the new government has imposed a state of emergency eliminating protections against arbitrary detentions or police abuse. Security forces have killed well over a thousand predominantly unarmed protesters while blocking a full accounting of the death toll, and they have detained or arrested thousands of Islamists, including Mr. Morsi, on apparently politicized charges.
Mr. Gohmert said Egypt's new government recalled the sentiment of Thomas Paine that the law is "king," constraining the most powerful and protecting the weakest.
As for General Sisi and Egypt's military leaders, Mr. Gohmert said they reminded him of Thomas Jefferson's declaration of "eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the minds of men."
"Stand strong, Egypt," he said. "Stand firm."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.