April 13, 2019
Trump escalates attacks on Muslim American congresswoman’s patriotism, prompting 2020 frontrunners to defend her
Omar ‘will not back down to Trump’s racism and hate’, said Bernie Sanders. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP
By Guardian staff and agencies
Progressive Democrats fiercely condemned Donald Trump and other Republicans’ growing efforts to smear the US representative Ilhan Omar, and urged party leaders to do the same.
The president’s attacks labeling Omar, one of the two Muslim women serving in Congress, as unpatriotic are “dangerous” and “inciting violence”, a handful of prominent Democrats said on Friday. Just last week, a Trump supporter in upstate New York was charged with threatening to kill Omar.
Two of the most progressive Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential nomination called on the party to condemn the attacks.
Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination, called the attacks on Omar “disgusting and dangerous” and said that Omar would not “back down to Trump’s racism and hate, and neither will we”.
“The President is inciting violence against a sitting Congresswoman – and an entire group of Americans based on their religion,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, another 2020 candidate, wrote on Twitter. “It’s disgusting. It’s shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.”
Trump escalated the latest round of attacks on Omar on Friday by tweeting “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”, along with a video that was edited to suggest Omar was dismissive of the September 11 attacks.
The video pulls a snippet of Omar’s speech last month to the Council on American-Islamic Relations in which she talks about the problem of Islamophobia, describing “the discomfort of being a second-class citizen” as a Muslim in America and how, after the September 11 attacks, advocates “recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties”.
Rightwing critics have used an edited clip of the “some people did something” comment to falsely claim that Omar does not believe that September 11 was a terrorist attack, that she downplayed or demeaned the seriousness of the attack, and that she is un-American or not loyal to the United States.
Fox News and the New York Post, both owned by Rupert Murdoch, have devoted high-profile coverage to the misleading claims, including a graphic New York Post cover with her quote and an image of the World Trade Center towers in flames.
Omar and others have called the smears an “dangerous incitement” to violence against one of the first two MuslimAmerican women elected to Congress.
Rashida Tlaib, the other Muslim American woman in Congress, was the first on Friday to call on Democrats to “speak up” against the smear attacks.
“We cannot stand by,” she wrote.
The New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez later joined Tlaib in calling for Democrats to “speak out” about the consequences of attacks on Omar.
“@IlhanMN’s life is in danger. For our colleagues to be silent is to be complicit in the outright, dangerous targeting of a member of Congress.”
Congressional Democratic leadership and some freshmen lawmakers have disagreed over how to respond to Republicans’ constant barrage of attacks on Omar. Last month, Omar apologized “unequivocally” after suggesting that American support for Israel was fueled by political donations from a pro-Israel lobby group, in comments criticized by Democratic leaders for invoking antisemitic tropes.
The controversy set off a protracted debate within the party on how to respond.
Trump’s tweet comes less than a month after a major white supremacist terror attack targeting Muslim worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand.
“The sequence of events from Christchurch to now is quite terrifying,” Jason Wilson, a reporter who covers far-right extremists in the United States and Australia, wrote on Twitter on Friday.
Trump’s own comments on September 11 have long attracted criticism. In a media interview just hours after the terror attack on the World Trade Center, Trump first described his shock and disbelief at what had happened.
Then he added a comment that left the journalists interviewing him “stunned”.
Trump, claimed, falsely, that one of his own buildings had been “the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan” after the World Trade Center.
“And now it’s the tallest,” he added.