THE COMPANY THEY KEEP…. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) remarks about the president on a radio show yesterday were clearly offensive, but it’s also worth pausing to note who it was Huckabee was speaking to.

To be sure, the remarks were ridiculous enough at face value. But the Republican made the comments to none other than Bryan Fischer, the resident nut at the American Family Association.

And who’s Bryan Fischer? Walid Zafar recently described him, accurately, as “one of the most hateful public figures in the country. Almost daily, he says or writes something that is not only offensive, but almost unique in its viciousness.”

We’re talking about a hysterical right-wing clown who wants Muslim Americans to be “deported” (to where is unclear); equates gay sex with “domestic terrorism,” and is convinced that the U.S. military is being run by “fundamentalist Muslims and homosexual activists.”

Common sense suggests elected officials and would-be national leaders wouldn’t even want to be in the same room as this guy. Except, as my friend Kyle at Right Wing Watch recently explained, Fischer’s record of over-the-top hatred towards everyone who isn’t like him “does not seem to bother any of the Republican leaders who continually appear on his radio program.”

Just last week, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker joined Fischer to discuss his anti-choice legislation, and before that it was presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty telling Fischer he’ll reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

And the pattern continues, as in the last few days Fischer has had two more Republican members on Congress on his program, starting last Friday with Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey who joined Fischer to discuss his anti-choice efforts:

And then on Monday, Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia also joined Fischer to discuss his appearance on Bill Maher and defend his Creationist views.

If Fischer wants to say crazy things on his radio show, that’s obviously his business. Most of his nonsense is so absurd on its face, I generally find it easier to laugh at him than be offended.

But it’s far more troubling that powerful Republican officials, including some would-be presidents, have no qualms reaching out to a hate-filled radio host who, on a daily basis, lashes out at other Americans.

I seem to recall, in 2008, the right took a pretty strong interest in who Democratic candidates chose to associate themselves with. With that in mind, what are Huckabee, Pawlenty, and others doing paling around with an extremist like Bryan Fischer?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.