Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) defended herself Wednesday against critics who questioned her loyalty to the United States after she mentioned the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in a short clip that circulated widely on social media this week, triggering a wave of outrage from the right.
“I took an oath to uphold the Constitution,” the freshman congresswoman said during an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” “I am as American as everyone else is.”
Omar’s 9/11 remark, a brief moment during a roughly 20-minute-long speech last month at a Council on American-Islamic Relations event in Los Angeles, came after she incorrectly said the organization, which was founded in 1994, was created in response to the attacks. Omar, a Somali refugee, is Muslim.
“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,” Omar said at the event. “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.”
Republicans swiftly pounced on Omar’s characterization of 9/11, claiming the congresswoman had downplayed one of the darkest events in modern U.S. history, which left nearly 3,000 people dead. The backlash came on the heels of Omar again being accused of anti-Semitism by conservatives for calling White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who is Jewish, a “white nationalist.”
“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-Tex.) on Tuesday. “Unbelievable.”
Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, slammed Omar as “anti-American.”
“Democrat leaders need to condemn her brazen display of disrespect,” McDaniel tweeted.
Omar’s comment drew further criticism from the hosts of “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday.
“You have to wonder if she is an American first,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said. “Can you imagine if she was representing your community, and you were in her district, how embarrassed you must feel today.”
The statement even prompted the father of a New York firefighter who died on 9/11, to pen an op-ed in the New York Post titled, “My FDNY son’s death on 9/11 was more than just ‘something.’”
“I think Omar owes an apology to America,” Jim Riches wrote. “Until the time that you realize the importance of 9/11 as the worst day in American history, I call for your removal from Congress.”
The tabloid also noted Omar’s comments on its Thursday front page, which included a photo of the twin towers burning and a message to the Minnesota Democrat: “Here’s your something.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), like Omar a Muslim American woman who was elected to Congress in 2018, condemned the cover in a tweet Thursday morning. “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. Shame on them, and shame on Rupert Murdoch,” she said.
Just hours after the Fox News segment aired, Omar fired back, specifically calling out Crenshaw and Kilmeade.
“This is dangerous incitement, given the death threats I face,” Omar tweeted. “My love and commitment to our country and that of my colleagues should never be in question. We are ALL Americans!”
Omar, one of two Muslim women to ever serve in Congress, faced serious threats against her life as recently as last month, when a New York man promised to “put a bullet in her [expletive] skull.” The man has been arrested and charged, The Washington Post reported.
On “The Late Show,” Omar addressed the recent accusations of anti-Semitism and blamed the fierce criticism she often encounters on a “double standard,” which she noted is “very much embedded in a lot of our culture these days.” Colbert acknowledged that he had previously made similar comments about Miller on his show and did not experience the same amount of backlash as Omar.
“You will have people come after minorities for things that they say or they might have insinuated,” Omar said. “But no one goes after people like the folks on ‘Fox & Friends.’ . . . They actually said I might not be American, that my loyalties might not be with this country.”
She later added: “You see this outrage when I speak the truth. Everyone else’s truth is allowed, but my truth can never be.”
When asked by Colbert how she and fellow freshman congresswomen, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Tlaib, felt about seasoned politicians advising them to “slow down,” Omar had a blunt response.
“We are not there to be quiet,” she said, prompting cheers. “We are not there to be invisible.”
Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) chastised “Fox & Friends” for questioning Omar’s patriotism. “It’s dangerous, not only to my colleague, but also to my Constitution,” Smith tweeted.
Another Twitter user wrote that Crenshaw “should be ashamed,” and called the congressman’s rebuke of Omar “an utterly dishonorable smear.”
“I didn’t intend to question whether Rep. Omar is an American — I am questioning how any American, let alone a United States Congresswoman, could downplay the 9/11 attacks,” Kilmeade tweeted.