WASHINGTON — House Democratic leadership came out against the remarks of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) today, stressing that “anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception.”
Omar initially responded “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” to a tweet about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) seeking action against her and Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-Mich.) anti-Israel statements.
Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor at The Forward, tweeted in response, “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.”
Citing the tweet, Omar replied, “AIPAC!”
She was slammed on Twitter by Jewish organizations, politicians, and Chelsea Clinton, who tweeted that “we have to call out anti-Semitic language and tropes on all sides, particularly in our elected officials and particularly now.”
McCarthy said in a statement today that “members of the Democrat caucus have increasingly and alarmingly used anti-Semitic language which has no place in the halls of this Congress and undermines the shared values and unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel.”
“House Democrat leadership continues to be silent as Americans from both sides of the aisle condemn this rhetoric and pattern of behavior,” he said. “In the face of that abdication of leadership, Republicans will take action this week to ensure the House speaks out against this hatred and stands with Israel and the Jewish people.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) issued a joint statement stressing that “we are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests.”
“Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share,” they said. “But Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”
“As Democrats and as Americans, the entire Congress must be fully engaged in denouncing and rejecting all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice and discrimination wherever they are encountered,” they added.
UPDATE 3:45 p.m. EST: Omar tweeted that “anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
“My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” her statement continued. “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.”
“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry,” Omar added. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”