President Donald Trump launched another attack on Twitter against Rep. Ilhan Omar Monday, accusing the Somali-American refugee of being ungrateful and making anti-U.S. remarks. The tweet follows Trump's decision to post video footage of the September 11 terror attacks intercut with a comment Omar made in a March speech.
The Minnesota freshman has faced increased backlash for remarks she made at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) event last month. "For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen," Omar said. "Frankly, I’m tired of it. And every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties."
Omar, one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress and the first House member to wear a hijab, accurately pointed out that her community has faced everything from being the targets of secret surveillance to losing civil protections and facing an increase in discrimination and hate crimes since 9/11. (The congresswoman was factually incorrect when she said CAIR was founded after the attacks. A spokesperson later clarified that she meant to say the organization expanded at the time.) The Minnesota Democrat also defended her criticism of Islamic countries such Saudi Arabia and Egypt over their human rights records. “It doesn’t matter if that country is being run by my father, my brother, my sister,” she told the audience. “I will still criticize that country because I know every country is capable of living up to its best.”
She ended her speech by saying: “I know as an American, as an American member of Congress, I have to make sure I am living up to the ideals of fighting for liberty and justice. Those are very much rooted in the reason why my family came here.”
But the wording "some people did something" struck a nerve with many, who accused Omar of downplaying the terror attacks. A clip of her remarks has also been taken out of context and weaponized. Among some people who've done that is Trump, whose 2016 presidential campaign and White House tenure has been colored with extreme anti-Muslim views and policy proposals. To an extent, it seems that painting Omar as a Muslim foe who hates America will be part of Trump's broad 2020 strategy to retake the Oval Office.
Omar said that the video and remarks by the president and his allies has led to an increase in death threats against her. (Just last week a New York man was arrested for threatening to kill her.) "Since the president’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life – many directly referencing or replying to the president’s video," Omar, a mother of three, said in statement Sunday night. She added: "Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief. We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop."
Administration officials have defended the president's attacks against Omar, dismissing concerns that his rhetoric would lead to more threats against the Minnesota Democrat. "Certainly the president is wishing no ill will, and certainly not violence towards anyone," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday, highlighting that Omar has been accused of anti-Semitism in several occasions. "But the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman."
Democratic lawmakers and most of the 2020 presidential hopefuls have stood by Omar. In a statement Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger. President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video." She added that she had been in contact with the House sergeant-at-arms "to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family, and her staff."