Cable talk host Jeanine Pirro’s segment about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) alleged belief in sharia law this weekend has now earned a rebuke from her employer, Fox News. “We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar,” Fox said late Sunday. “They do not reflect those of the network, and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”
But what Pirro said isn’t hugely different from what the president she and many other high-profile Fox hosts supported said in 2016.
To recap, here’s what Pirro said on her show Saturday night about Omar, a freshman Muslim congresswoman born in Somalia who has come under fire for comments even some Democratic colleagues have labeled as anti-Semitic:
Think about this, she’s not getting this anti-Israel sentiment doctrine from the Democratic Party, so if it’s not rooted in the party, where is she getting it from? Think about it. Omar wears a hijab, which, according to the Quran 33:59, tells women to cover so they won’t get molested. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?
The reliance here on supposition and innuendo is massive: Just because Omar abides by a certain teaching of the Koran, Pirro implies, she must therefore subscribe to a fundamentalist interpretation of sharia law that supersedes the Constitution.
The logical holes in that argument are one thing. But Pirro wasn’t saying something hugely different from what President Trump said in 2016. Back when Trump was pursuing a total ban on Muslim immigration, he occasionally invoked the prospect that immigrants might believe in sharia and that their adherence to it would be antithetical to the Constitution.
Here’s an exchange Trump had with Fox’s Sean Hannity on June 24, 2016, in which the two of them discussed the Clinton Foundation accepting money from Saudi Arabia. Both men suggested immigrants from places that embrace sharia might not accept American laws:
TRUMP: How can women endorse somebody that’s not only taking money, but also allowing people to come into our country from these various places that believe in sharia, that -- that you know, believe in what they believe over there --
HANNITY: But don’t you believe --
TRUMP: -- because what’s happening now -- go ahead.
HANNITY: If you grow up under sharia, aren’t those the values the antithesis of our great republic? In other words, if you grow up thinking you can tell women how to dress and that they can’t drive a car -- you know, how do we ascertain -- is it even possible to ascertain whether or you come here because you want freedom and you want to leave oppression, or do you want to come here and proselytize and indoctrinate and create a theocracy here? How do you ever ascertain that?
TRUMP: Well, I said in my speech yesterday we want to take people in this country, and we do. I want people to come and I want people to come in in tremendous ways, but they have to come in legally. But they have to love our country. They have to really just love what we stand for and what we represent.
And a lot of the people coming in -- I mean, if they’re into the world of sharia, you’re talking about from a different planet. Now, the way they feel about women, the way they feel about gays, the way they feel about what we stand for -- and we’re taking in thousands and thousands of people -- not a good situation.
In a June 13, 2016, speech in Manchester, N.H., Trump suggested we shouldn’t allow immigrants from certain Muslim countries if those countries strongly support sharia law.
“According to Pew Research, 99 percent of the people in Afghanistan support oppressive sharia law,” he said. “We admit many more from other countries in the region. And I’ll tell you what: They share these oppressive views and values.”
After the March 2016 terrorist attack in Belgium, Trump suggested thousands of sharia adherents were being allowed into the United States and that they didn’t respect American laws.
“They want sharia law. They don’t want laws that we have. They want sharia law,” Trump told NBC’s “Today” show. “You know, you say to yourself, at what point — how much of this do you take? And what we’re doing is we’re allowing thousands and thousands of these people into our country.”
Trump was painting with a broader brush than Pirro was; he was making suppositions about the broader Muslim immigrant population, whereas Pirro was talking specifically about one member of Congress — and making a badly strained case about her clothing to suggest she’s un-American.
But at their core, both were making the same case: That Muslims could be influenced by fellow Muslims to carry a fundamentalist interpretation of sharia onto U.S. soil that doesn’t comport with the Constitution. Just as Pirro was suggesting Omar might have brought this over from Somalia, Trump was saying it could come from many countries. In effect, both were saying people like Omar are suspect.