A freshman member of Congress has stirred controversy — again.
This time it was remarks made by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., about the terror attacks on 9/11, referring to the terrorists as “some people.” The comments sparked criticism from one of her Republican colleagues in Congress and caused a Fox News host to question her allegiance to the U.S.
On Thursday, the New York Post blasted the Democrat in a large spread on their front page. The cover showed the Twin Towers burning after a pair of jetliners crashed into them. The headline reads: Rep. Ilhan Omar: 9/11 was ‘some people did something.’ Here’s your something. 2,977 people dead by terrorism”
Here’s what we know about Omar’s comments, both the full context of them and the reaction they’ve received:
What she said:
Omar was speaking at a dinner last month for the Council of American-Islamic Relations in California, one week after the attacks targeting two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The attacks left 50 people dead.
She spoke to the Muslim community about their resilience and their rights to live a full life like all Americans, saying that while the attack was a “tragic nightmare,” it wasn’t surprising.
“Many of us were not shocked or surprised, many of us were kind of waiting, holding our breath for a really long time thinking when will something like this happen,” Omar said, noting the constant threats targeting mosques, schools and minorities.
While not naming President Donald Trump, Omar noted that our leader in the White House has helped worsen these issues.
“I think that many of us knew that this was going to get worse because we finally have a leader, a world, leader, in the White House, who publicly says Islam hates us, who fuels hate against Muslims, who thinks it is OK, it is OK to speak about a faith and a whole community in a way that is dehumanizing,” Omar said.
She said she is often asked, “How have you gotten empowered, and I say I was born this way,” Omar said. “It is not about how others make us feel, it is what we tell ourselves that we are worthy.”
But, she said, Muslims must not be defeated by hatred. She said while her community is taught to live a simple life in order to fit in, that has not worked. She stressed the importance of speaking out and showing up, then Omar made comments about 9/11, which drew both headlines and criticism.
“Here’s the truth. 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. 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. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange, that I am trying to make myself look pleasant. You have to say this person is looking at me strange, I am not comfortable with it, and I am going to talk to them and ask them why. Because that is the right you have.”
The full context?
Some have argued that Omar’s comments about 9/11 being “something” that was done by “some people” were taken out of context.
Will Saletan, a national correspondent for Slate, said Omar used some to “distinguish terrorists from ‘all’ Muslimes.” Jon Swaine, a reporter for the Guardian, wrote on Twitter that Omar “did mention terrorists – in the build-up to the very snippet now being used to attack her.”
Stories from Vox, the HuffPost and Yahoo News have called the remarks out of context, but some conservatives have dismissed that notion.
Jordan Schachtel, a writer for the Conservative Review, said listening to the full speech makes her comments “even more conspiratorial and deranged.” Schachtel argued that Swaine was “covering for” Omar.
“Absolute hogwash. You’re covering for her,” he said in reply to Swaine. “Her ‘terrorist’ mention has zero to do w/ the 9/11 part. If anything, actual context for her remarks make them even more conspiratorial and deranged. Rep. Omar should tell us what she believes happened on 9/11.”
New York Post cover:
The New York Post cover divided those online, including members of Congress. Omar’s Democratic colleagues, notably other freshmen elected in November, came to her defense calling the cover shameful.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called the front page “horrifying and hateful.”
“I’m not going to quote the NY Post’s horrifying, hateful cover,” said the progressive firebrand. “Here’s 1 fact: @IlhanMN is a cosponsor of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. She‘s done more for 9/11 families than the GOP who won’t even support healthcare for 1st responders- yet are happy to weaponize her faith.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, who has also drawn scrutiny for her progressive ideas and says she has also been targeted with death threats, continued to defend Omar at the House Democratic retreat in Leesburg, Virginia.
“The level to which Republicans and conservative groups, whether they are officially party apparatuses sending out emails calling me and others domestic terrorists or whether it’s Rupert Murdoch and the New York Post printing on the front page to circulate all around New York City an image that is incredibly upsetting and triggering for New Yorkers that were actually there and were actually in the radius who woke up (that) morning or were in their schools and didn’t know if they were going to see their parents at the end of the day, to elicit such an image for such a transparently and politically motivated attack on Ilhan, we are getting to a level where this is an incitement of violence against progressive women of color,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. “If they can’t figure out how to get it back to policy, we need to call it out for what it is because this is not normal.”
Fellow freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said the cover could further endanger Omar’s life. The controversy erupted just days after a New York man was arrested after threatening to put a “bullet” in her “skull.”
“The NY Post knows exactly what it’s doing – taking quotes out of context and evoking painful imagery to spread hate and endangering the life of Rep. Omar,” Tlaib said on Twitter. “Shame on them, and shame on Rupert Murdoch.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said “I thought it was a pretty outrageous cover.”
MSNBC host Chris Hayes denounced it on Twitter. “Not gonna link to it but that NY Post cover is despicable,” he wrote.
But some, including Republican Rep. Brian Babin, of Texas, applauded the cover.
“Thank you to the New York Post for illustrating to my colleague, Rep. Ilhan Omar, that 9/11 was not just ‘some people did something’ and that the real victims were the 2,977 innocent lives taken by 19 radical Islamic terrorists,” Babin wrote on Facebook.
Not the first controversy surrounding Omar
Before her comments on 9/11 were unearthed, Omar sparked controversy over her criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and Israel lobbying efforts.
She posted a series of tweets in February implying the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups was stifling debate about Israel and Palestine. Critics said the comments played into enduring stereotypes about Jewish money controlling politics.
In the aftermath of the controversy, the House passed a resolution that broadly condemned hate. It was originally crafted solely on denouncing anti-Semitism but later broadened to condemning other forms of bigotry against minorities.
Omar, along with Tlaib, were the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both were sworn into office in January.
The attention she’s gotten has led to death threats, including by a New York man who was arrested last week after calling her office and threatening to kill her.
“Do you work for the Muslim Brotherhood? Why are you working for her, she’s an (expletive) terrorist,” Patrick W. Carlineo, a Trump supporter, is accused of telling a member of Omar’s staff. “I’ll put a bullet in her (expletive) skull.”
Long with the threats, a display in the West Virginia statehouse equated Omar to al-Qaida terrorists behind the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The poster sparked a confrontation between Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Friday, according to NBC News. One person was physically injured and another resigned as a result of the incident that centered around the freshman Minnesota Democrat, NBC reported.
The poster shows an image of the World Trade Center just after terrorists hit the second tower with a civilian airliner. “‘Never forget’ – you said … ” reads the caption above the image of the burning towers.
“I am the proof – you have forgotten” reads the next caption below an image of Omar, who is Muslim.