Il­han Omar: White House es­ca­lates Trump at­tack over 9/11 com­ment

The Guardian (USA) - - Front Page - Tom McCarthy in New York

The White House es­ca­lated its as­sault on the Mus­lim Amer­i­can con­gress­woman Il­han Omar on Sun­day, af­ter Don­ald Trump re­peat­edly tweeted video footage of Septem­ber 11 and ac­cused Omar of down­play­ing the ter­ror at­tacks.

Sup­ported by a wave of Democrats say­ing Trump was wil­fully mis­rep­re­sent­ing com­ments by Omar in what amounted to dan­ger­ous racist bul­ly­ing, the con­gress­woman on Satur­day said she would not be si­lenced by “an ad­min­is­tra­tion that ran on ban­ning Mus­lims from this coun­try”.

“No one per­son – no mat­ter how cor­rupt, in­ept, or vi­cious – can threaten my un­wa­ver­ing love for Amer­ica,” Omar tweeted.

But on Sun­day White House press sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders in­sisted that Omar, 37, a So­mali Amer­i­can who as one of the first Mus­lim women in Congress is the first to wear a hi­jab in the House cham­ber, was in the wrong.

“I find her com­ments to be ab­so­lutely dis­grace­ful and un­be­fit­ting of a mem­ber of Congress,” San­ders said, “and I think that it’s a good thing the pres­i­dent is call­ing her out.”

San­ders dis­missed con­cern among Democrats that Trump was in­cit­ing vi­o­lence against Omar, who has re­ceived death threats, and other Mus­lim Amer­i­cans.

“The pres­i­dent is wish­ing no ill will and cer­tainly not vi­o­lence to­ward any­one,” said San­ders. “But the pres­i­dent is ab­so­lutely and should be call­ing out the con­gress­woman.”

Omar has come in for a drub­bing from the right over a snip­pet from a speech last month to the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islamic Re­la­tions (Cair), in which she dis­cussed the prob­lem of Is­lam­o­pho­bia and de­scribed “the dis­com­fort of be­ing a se­cond-class ci­ti­zen”.

“Cair was founded af­ter 9/11,” Omar said, “be­cause they rec­og­nized that some peo­ple did some­thing and that all of us were start­ing to lose ac­cess to our civil lib­er­ties”.

In re­sponse, Trump tweeted, retweeted then pinned atop his Twit­ter ac­count a video splic­ing footage of Omar’s re­mark with video of the 9/11 at­tacks, in­clud­ing planes strik­ing the World Trade Cen­ter and the Twin Tow­ers fall­ing.

Trump’s at­tack am­pli­fied a cover run by the tabloid New York Post, owned by Ru­pert Mur­doch, which splashed a quote from Omar over a pic­ture of the World Trade Cen­ter in flames. In re­sponse, a group of New York City cor­ner-store own­ers an­nounced a boy­cott of the news­pa­per.

The Ye­meni Amer­i­can Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents Ye­meni Amer­i­cans who own and run an es­ti­mated 4,000 to 5,000 of the city’s thou­sands of delis and cor­ner stores, known as “bode­gas”, wrote that the front page “pro­voked ha­tred” and “aims to harm Omar and her fam­ily and other peo­ple of the Islamic faith”.

“This rhetoric threat­ens the safety and well­be­ing of Omar, Mus­lim lead­ers, and the larger Mus­lim Amer­i­can com­mu­nity at a time when Is­lam­o­pho­bia is at an all-time high,” it added.

Andrew Gil­lum, a for­mer mayor of Tal­la­has­see who made a strong run in 2018 for the Florida gov­er­nor­ship, said on CNN’s State of the Union Trump was mak­ing a racist at­tack on Omar as part of his strat­egy to win re-elec­tion.

“Ob­vi­ously Il­han has be­come a lit­tle bit of an easy tar­get for this White House, for this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Gil­lum said.

“But I think his at­tack is be­yond con­gress­woman Omar. This is about the fact that she looks a cer­tain way, she is a woman of color, she hap­pens to be of the Mus­lim faith. The pres­i­dent is set­ting, in my opin­ion, the ground­work for the kind of cam­paign he wants to run, which is to pit Amer­i­cans against Amer­i­cans, to turn brown and black peo­ple against his base.”

Omar, who rep­re­sents a dis­trict in­clud­ing Min­neapo­lis, has been in Congress just over three months but she has been tar­geted by Trump more than once. In Fe­bru­ary, af­ter Omar sug­gested sup­port for Is­rael was fueled by do­na­tions from a lobby group, she was ac­cused of an­tisemitism.

Omar apol­o­gized “un­equiv­o­cally”. But she has de­clined to do so over her 9/11 com­ment.

“I did not run for Congress to be silent,” she tweeted on Satur­day. “I stand un­de­terred to con­tinue fight­ing for equal op­por­tu­nity in our pur­suit of hap­pi­ness for all Amer­i­cans.”

Many Democrats, in­clud­ing more than a dozen pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, is­sued state­ments of sup­port for Omar, though ac­tivists were care­ful to note that some of the state­ments, which men­tioned Omar by name, were stronger than oth­ers.

Rashida Tlaib of Michi­gan, the other Mus­lim Amer­i­can woman in Congress, was the first on Fri­day to call for Democrats to sup­port Omar.

“Enough is enough,” she wrote. “No

more si­lence, with NY Post and now Trump tak­ing Il­han’s words out of con­text to in­cite vi­o­lence to­ward her, it’s time for more Dem[ocrats] to speak up. Clearly the GOP is fine with this shame­ful stunt, but we can­not stand by.”

Sen­a­tor Bernie San­ders called at­tacks on Omar “dis­gust­ing and dan­ger­ous” and said Omar would not “back down to Trump’s racism and hate, and nei­ther will we”.

Sen­a­tor El­iz­a­beth War­ren said: “The pres­i­dent is in­cit­ing vi­o­lence against a sit­ting con­gress­woman – and an en­tire group of Amer­i­cans based on their re­li­gion. It’s dis­gust­ing. It’s shame­ful. And any elected leader who re­fuses to con­demn it shares re­spon­si­bil­ity for it.”

For­mer rep­re­sen­ta­tive Beto O’Rourke and New York con­gress­woman Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez said Trump’s at­tacks amounted to an “in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence”.

Trump’s own con­tro­ver­sial re­marks and false claims about Septem­ber 11 have come un­der re­newed scru­tiny. Speak­ing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sun­day, the New York con­gress­man Jer­rold Nadler, whose dis­trict cov­ers lower Man­hat­tan, said he was not of­fended by Omar’s re­marks be­cause she re­ferred only in pass­ing to Septem­ber 11. But Trump was speak­ing out of turn, Nadler said, be­cause af­ter 9/11 he had taken money from a fed­eral grant fund for small busi­nesses that were dam­aged in the ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

“He stole $150,000 from some small busi­ness per­son who could have used it to help re­ha­bil­i­tate him­self,” Nadler said.

“He has no moral author­ity to be talk­ing about 9/11 at all.”

I think that it’s a good thing that the pres­i­dent is call­ing her out Sarah San­ders

Il­han Omar par­tic­i­pates in a news con­fer­ence out­side the Capi­tol in Washington, ear­lier this week. Pho­to­graph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

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