Rep. Ilhan Omar Apologizes ‘Unequivocally’ For Remarks Condemned As Anti-Semitic
BY SUSAN DAVIS, NPR
Updated Feb. 11, 2019 at 4:40 p.m. PT
One of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress has apologized for comments on social media widely condemned as anti-Semitic. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said she apologized “unequivocally” following a joint statement released by House Democratic leaders calling on her to do so.
“Anti-Semitism is real,” Omar tweeted Monday afternoon, “and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
She added, “We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Omar questioned the financial relationship between AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, and members of Congress in tweets over the weekend. In her apology, Omar added that she still believes there is a “problematic role” for lobbyists, whether it’s AIPAC or the NRA.
Two Jewish House Democrats are circulating a letter to their colleagues asking them to join in asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the party leadership to condemn anti-Semitism citing “recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus.”
The letter, by Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Elaine Luria of Virginia, does not name lawmakers but it is clearly a reference to freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who is the target of recent criticism on the left and right for comments seen as both overt and subtly anti-Semitic.
A spokesman for Omar has not responded to NPR’s request for comment on the letter.
“We must speak out when any Member — Democrat or Republican — uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday,” the letter states, a clear reference to Omar’s tweets over the weekend in which she questioned the financial relationship between AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, and members of Congress.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
Omar is one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress; the other is fellow freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
For weeks, congressional Republicans have criticized both women for what they see as anti-Semitic rhetoric, and Omar’s placement on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but the letter is the first official act by some of their own Democratic colleagues.
Another Democratic freshman lawmaker who is also Jewish, Max Rose of New York, criticized Omar for her tweets. “Congresswoman Omar’s comments are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself,” he wrote. Other Democrats, including Chelsea Clinton, also tweeted criticism of Omar’s rhetoric.
A growing number of House Democrats are weighing in on the controversy. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York condemned Omar’s tweets Monday morning. “It is deeply disappointing and disturbing to hear Representative Ilhan Omar’s choice of words in her exchange with a journalist yesterday, wherein she appears to traffic in old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money,” he said. “Her words are deeply hurtful and offensive.”
Separately the Anti-Defamation League, an outside group formed to fight hate speech and anti-Semitism, called on top House leaders to take immediate action to condemn Rep. Omar’s recent comments, citing a tweet where she suggested politicians were being influenced by donations from Jewish groups.
“As Americans and Jews, we expect our politicians to condemn bigotry, not to fuel it. Words matter. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S. and abroad, Rep. Omar is promoting the ugly, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews have an outsized influence over politics,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of ADL, said in a written statement.