Top Democrats on Saturday rushed to defend Rep. Ilhan Omar after President Trump retweeted video that was edited to suggest she was being dismissive of the significance of the worst terrorist assault on U.S. soil.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scolded Trump for using the “painful images of 9/11 for a political attack” against the first-term Minnesota Democrat.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination to challenge Trump in 2020, said the Republican president’s tweet was an “incitement to violence” against Omar, who is Muslim American, and others like her.
The video Trump retweeted Friday pulls a snippet of Omar’s recent speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, in which she described the 2001 terrorist attacks as “some people did something.” Trump’s retweet includes news footage of the hijacked planes hitting the twin towers, to which he added the message, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”
Omar’s remark has drawn criticism largely from political opponents and conservatives who say the lawmaker, one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, offered a flippant description of the assailants and the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Neither Trump’s tweet nor the video included her full quote or the context of her comments.
Omar told CAIR in Los Angeles that many Muslims saw their civil liberties eroded after the attacks, and she advocated for activism.
“For far too long, we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” she said in the March 23 speech, according to video posted online. “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.”
CAIR was founded in 1994, according to its website, but its membership skyrocketed after the attacks.
Many Republicans and conservative outlets expressed outrage at Omar’s remarks. Fellow Democrats, including some who have disagreed with Omar in the past, defended her.
“First Member of Congress to ever describe terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11 as ‘some people who did something,’” tweeted Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas). The retired Navy SEAL lost his right eye in 2012 in an explosion in Afghanistan.
“Here’s your something,” the New York Post blared on its cover beneath a photograph of the flaming towers.
Pelosi, who was in Germany visiting U.S. troops Saturday, said in a statement that “the memory of 9/11 is sacred ground” and should always be discussed “with reverence.” The San Francisco Democrat said it is wrong for Trump to “fan the flames to make anyone less safe.”
Omar didn’t appear to be backing down.
She tweeted a quote from President George W. Bush, who said days after the attacks: “The people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”
“Was Bush downplaying the terrorist attack?” Omar tweeted. “What if he was a Muslim.”
Several Democratic presidential candidates condemned Trump’s tweet.
O’Rourke, who campaigned in South Carolina on Saturday, likened Trump’s tweet to his rhetoric about Mexicans, described in the past by Trump as murderers and rapists. O’Rourke said “there is a cost and there is a consequence” to Trump’s comments.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar noted that a New York man was recently charged with threatening Omar’s life.
“The video the president chose to send out today will only incite more hate,” Klobuchar said. “You can disagree with her words — as I have done before — but this video is wrong. Enough.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Omar “won’t back down to Trump’s racism and hate, and neither will we.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also accused Trump “of inciting violence against a sitting congresswoman — and an entire group of Americans based on their religion.”
Omar repeatedly has pushed fellow Democrats into uncomfortable territory over Israel and the strength of the Jewish state’s influence in Washington. She apologized for using language criticizing pro-Israel lobbyists that was widely viewed as anti-Semitic. But she refused to take back a tweet in which she suggested American supporters of Israel “pledge allegiance” to a foreign country, another reference criticized as employing an anti-Jewish trope.
Her comments sparked a dispute among House Democrats after they responded with a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and the measure became a broader declaration against bigotry.