In The City Paper this week, it's a full court press on the storm surrounding the Department of Economic Development's international director Samar Ali. She's a native Tennessean, a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and, also, a Muslim. Perhaps you've heard of her by now.
Ali has been showing up in national headlines ever since several county Republican Party chapters adopted resolutions criticizing the governor for hiring someone whom they allege has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Read the piece, and the accompanying reports from Ken Whitehouse and Skip Anderson, for more on Ali, Shariah law, and why the noise coming from Williamson County and elsewhere seems — to put it diplomatically — plainly wrong.
Conservative radio talk show host Steve Gill joined a list of longtime GOP leaders in decrying what he called a "smear" against Ali, during an appearance over the weekend on This Week with Bob Mueller. Above, a clip from his appearance.
Interestingly enough, Gill is separated from Ali by just a few degrees. It turns out that both Gill and ECD commissioner Bill Hagerty were both White House Fellows (Hagerty under George H.W. Bush and Gill under Bush and Clinton). Ali, of course, was also the recipient of a White House Fellowship — a prestigious honor which was bestowed by President Barack Obama, yet has been used by foes as some kind of conspiratorial smoking gun. (Obama, you see, is a secret Muslim himself! Don't act like you didn't know.)
Gill tells Pith he has met Ali, calling her "very impressive." He says she is "definitely the target of a smear" but that only a handful are pushing it.
Gill gives the Williamson County GOP in particular a sock in the kisser: "Look, with all due respect to the Republican Party in Williamson County, Williamson County isn't a Republican county because the Republican Party of Williamson County does such a great job. Republicans live in Williamson County. Republicans live in Mt. Juliet, and Hendersonville, and Rutherford County. The Republican Party is not converting Democratic counties to Republican because of a few handful of Republican leaders in those counties and they need to kind of get over themselves."