As the country reeled after Saturday’s deadly shooting at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Meghan McCain and other prominent conservatives turned a critical eye toward Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has been accused by critics of anti-Semitism.
Hours earlier, McCain called out Omar during a discussion of the shooting on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
“When we’re having conversations about anti-Semitism, we should be looking at the most extreme on both sides,” McCain said. “I would bring up Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and some of her comments that got so much attention.”
Over the weekend, social media turned into a new battlefield over Omar’s past statements, some of which she has apologized for. Many blasted the congresswoman’s critics for coming down on her instead of white nationalism following an attack that left one dead and three injured. Omar’s supporters pointed to an online manifesto allegedly written by the shooter, which stated that he was inspired by last October’s massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh as well as last month’s New Zealand mosque shootings. The document’s writer also admitted to recently setting a mosque in Escondido, Calif., on fire, The Washington Post’s Deanna Paul and Katie Mettler reported. Omar, a Somali refugee, is Muslim.
“How dare you suggest that @IlhanMN is in some way responsible for the murder of our people when the Poway shooter’s manifesto showed his penchant for violent Islamophobia and antisemitism alike,” one Twitter user wrote in a message directed at McCain. “We know who is killing us.”
.@MeghanMcCain how dare you suggest that @IlhanMN is in some way responsible for the murder of our people when the Poway shooter’s manifesto showed his penchant for violent Islamophobia and antisemitism alike. We know who is killing us. How dare you. pic.twitter.com/ou5HykJnbA— Sophie Ellman-Golan (@EgSophie) April 28, 2019
The outcry started on Saturday after Omar tweeted a message of condolence to the victims of the Poway shooting, writing that her “heart is breaking.”
“We as a nation must confront the terrifying rise of religious hate and violence,” Omar wrote. “Love trumps hate.”
My heart is breaking after today’s deadly shooting at Chabad Congregation in San Diego—on the last day of Passover and 6 months to the day after the Tree of Life shooting.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) April 27, 2019
We as a nation must confront the terrifying rise of religious hate and violence.
Love trumps hate.
Though some praised Omar’s response, the tweet sparked fierce backlash from others who seized on past criticisms of the congresswoman to undercut her statement.
In February, Omar apologized after facing pressure from top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for suggesting that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major Jewish lobbying group, used money to exert control over members of Congress. More recently, she came under fire after she called Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who is Jewish, a “white nationalist.”
On Saturday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) retweeted a statement from Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) about the shooting in which she wrote, “Anti-Semitism is real in this country and we must not be silent — enough is enough.”
In his retweet, Roy tagged Omar and the New York Times, which was widely rebuked for publishing a cartoon last week in the opinion pages of its international print edition that many decried as anti-Semitic. The illustration featured a blind Trump wearing a black skullcap being led by a dog drawn with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s face and a Star of David collar. The Times apologized on Sunday.
cc: @nytimes @IlhanMN https://t.co/hRMpQOzYjg— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) April 27, 2019
McCain and Cruz similarly criticized Omar in the wake of the tragedy.
“In my opinion, Nancy Pelosi wasn’t hard enough in her response to [Omar’s] trafficking in anti-Semitic language, talking about, ‘All about the Benjamins,’ and how Jewish people had ‘hypnotized’ the world,” McCain said to Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning.
“The View” co-host added that while she agreed that when it comes to rhetoric, Trump “needs to have his feet held to the fire as well, we’re talking about it on both sides of the aisle."
In his tweet, Cruz also took aim at the Times, retweeting celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
The anti-Semitic Left—whether @IlhanMN repeated anti-Israel slurs or @nytimes apologizing for Hamas terrorists (eg, on 3/14/18) & running racist cartoons—is getting worse. And the House can’t even pass an anti-Semitism resolution. Responsible Dems need to say Enough is Enough. https://t.co/ca99Mcq9Ij— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 28, 2019
It didn’t take long for the congresswoman to hit back at her detractors.
“Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism are two sides of the same bigoted coin,” she tweeted Sunday, noting that the shooter allegedly targeted Jews and Muslims. Omar also included a link to a November op-ed she wrote about the rise of hate crimes in the United States. “Let us stand together as Americans in rejecting hate!” she wrote.
Earnest shot & killed Jewish worshippers and bombed a Masjid 🕌— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) April 28, 2019
Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism are two sides of the same bigoted coin.
Let us stand together as Americans in rejecting hate!
👇🏽my Nov. OpEd on the rise of Anti-Semitism hate crimes. https://t.co/xNldCCOdZY
Omar then homed in on Roy, Cruz and McCain individually.
She retweeted a message from IfNotNow, a left-leaning American Jewish activist group, slamming Roy.
“The right is weaponizing antisemitism to divide the progressive movement, silence criticism of Israel, and distract from the ways they have emboldened the white nationalists causing the violence,” the organization tweeted.
.@chiproytx, a current Republican Congressman blames @IlhanMN for today’s attack.— IfNotNow🔥 (@IfNotNowOrg) April 28, 2019
The right is weaponizing antisemitism to divide the progressive movement, silence criticism of Israel, and distract from the ways they have emboldened the white nationalists causing the violence. pic.twitter.com/J1PZDaQial
In response to Cruz, Omar chastised the Texas Republican for not making a public statement directly addressing Saturday’s shooting, writing, “Shame on you.” Her retort to McCain was shorter.
“Oh, bless her heart!” Omar tweeted, sharing a clip of McCain’s ABC appearance.
A white nationalist literally terrorized a synagogue during Passover yesterday and you have yet to say anything.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) April 28, 2019
Shame on you. https://t.co/X6EoQBsnfG
Throughout Sunday, Omar’s backers also rushed to her defense.
“People who burn mosques generally don’t ‘take cues’ from Muslims,” a Twitter user wrote. “Ilhan Omar is not a factor here, and if you think she is, you’re obscuring the white nationalism that caused this.”
In a lengthy thread, NBC News reporter Ben Collins called “attempts to push blame” on Omar for the shooter’s alleged crimes “untethered to reality.”
“You will not find Ilhan Omar fans or NY Times cartoon aficionados on 8chan, where the San Diego and New Zealand shooter posted near-identical notes,” Collins tweeted. “You’ll find people riled up by ‘white genocide’ through Muslim and Mexican immigration, angry the president isn’t doing more.”
The San Diego shooter was directly influenced by a man who killed 49 Muslims a month before. He started planning the attack the day of that shooting. He tried to burn down a mosque himself.— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) April 29, 2019
Attempts to push blame for his crime onto a Muslim congresswoman is untethered to reality
Several people argued that the attack, and crimes like it, should be blamed on white nationalism, while others accused Cruz and McCain of contributing to the atmosphere of violence.
There is nothing more vile than watching the right try to demonize Muslims to distract from the fact that right wing white nationalism is killing people.— Leah Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) April 28, 2019
British journalist Mehdi Hasan tweeted that “Cruz, like his fellow Republicans, is trying to get @IlhanMN killed.”
Omar has received many death threats, an amount she said increased earlier this month after Trump targeted her in a tweet about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two people were also arrested in April and charged with threatening Omar, including a New York man who allegedly vowed to “put a bullet in her [expletive] skull.”