Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar has apologized for a widely condemned tweet suggesting that money drives politicians’ support for Israel.
“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,” the freshman Democrat wrote in a tweet Monday. “My intention is never to offend my Jewish Americans as a whole. 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. That is why I unequivocally apologize.”
The freshman representative’s statement came shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders called for an apology.
In a dramatic statement Monday, members of the House Democratic leadership said that while “legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate,” Omar’s “use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s top supporters is deeply offensive.”
“We condemn these remarks and we call upon congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments,” read the statement, tweeted out by Pelosi.
The Democratic congresswoman shared a tweet Sunday on House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy pledging to take “action” in response to her support of movements to boycott and sanction Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she wrote, adding a musical note emoji.
In a follow-up tweet late Sunday, the freshman congresswoman said she was referencing the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization. While groups and individuals supporting Israel do donate heavily to politicians of both parties, AIPAC is a nonprofit that does not give directly to campaigns. In her Monday statement, Omar said she stands by the original sentiment that the organization holds too much power in Washington.
“I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry,” she said. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”
The line in the original tweet, from a 1997 Puff Daddy song, drew immediate criticism from local and national leaders and, in some cases, calls to remove her from her position on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said it is “shocking to hear a member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money.’” The New York Democrat did not directly address her committee post.
Locally, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas condemned the tweet, saying the language “should have no place in politics.”
“Such rhetoric puts our community in danger,” read the statement, which added that it’s insulting “to falsely suggest that elected officials only support Israel because they are paid to do so.”
The tweet was swiftly condemned by high-profile figures on both sides of the aisle, including a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Chelsea Clinton, whose husband is Jewish.
“We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism,” Clinton tweeted.
Fellow freshman Democratic Rep. Max Rose of New York called the comments “deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself,” according to Politico. Two other Democratic representatives wrote a letter to congressional leaders saying they are “deeply alarmed by the language,” according to the Washington Post. “We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes,” they wrote.
GOP groups, including the National Republican Congressional Committee, blasted Omar over the remarks. Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan called on Minnesota Democrats, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, to denounce the remarks and said House leadership should strip the freshman congresswoman of her committee assignments.
“It’s clear that congresswoman Ilhan Omar harbors deep-seated anti-Semitic views,” Carnahan said in a statement. “There’s no place for this in Congress or among our Minnesota congressional delegation.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas echoed those calls for rebuke.
“We completely agree with Ambassador Dan Shapiro that Rep. Omar’s outrageous comments equating politicians’ support for Israel with being bought off by American Jewish money are a vile anti-Semitic trope,” the group said. “They need to be condemned by all in our party.”
A spokesman for Democratic-Farmer-Labor Chairman Ken Martin said the party is “not going to be commenting at this time.” Klobuchar’s campaign has not responded to a request for comment.