The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ocasio-Cortez, Omar say they’re targeted with death threats as critics pile on

Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) speak on Capitol Hill on Feb. 7, 2019. (Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, two high-profile freshman Democrats who engender intense emotions on the right, each spoke out Wednesday about how efforts to vilify them have made them a target of death threats.

Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), who has become Republicans’ preferred foil, responded on Twitter to a fundraising email solicitation from the Ohio Federation of College Republicans with the subject line: “AOC is a domestic terrorist.”

Dave Levinthal, the federal politics editor at the Center for Public Integrity, shared it on Twitter and noted that the term was “often reserved for the likes of Timothy Mc­Veigh and people who kill children in their school classrooms.”

“This puts me in danger every time,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote, retweeting Levinthal. “Almost every time this uncalled for rhetoric gets blasted by conserv. grps, we get a spike in death threats to refer to Capitol Police. Multiple ppl have been arrested trying to harm me, Ilhan, & others. @GOP, what’s it going to take to stop?”

Just a few weeks ago Time magazine reported that Ocasio-Cortez’s staff received special training from the Capitol Police on how to assess her visitors for potential danger.

“Plenty of fundraising emails from Democrats and Republicans alike are hyperbolic, misleading or contain demonstrable errors,” Levinthal, who is an expert in money in politics, said in an email to The Post. “This is the first I’ve seen that puts a sitting congresswoman on par with mass murderers who blow up buildings or kill schoolchildren.”

The House Sergeant-at-Arms, Paul D. Irving, in his testimony before the House Administration Committee Tuesday, said that threatening communications have increased three-fold in the last several years.

“Members of Congress now receive an unprecedented number of threats and threatening communications, which mandate a proactive approach to our security posture,” he said in his prepared remarks.

In 2011, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head during a constituent meet and greet and nearly died. In 2017, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot in the hip during a congressional baseball practice.

Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, declined to comment on threats to individual lawmakers.

Omar, one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, has also faced significant threats on her life. On March 21, a man called her office and told the aide who answered the phone that he would “put a bullet in her [expletive] skull.”

This week, Omar came under fire from Republicans, several of whom questioned whether she’s an American, or supports the United States, after she referred to the attackers on Sept. 11, 2001, as “some people” who “did something” during a talk about the challenges of being a Muslim American after that day.

“Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade walked back his comments where he mused on air about whether Omar is “an American first.”

“This is dangerous incitement, given the death threats I face,” she tweeted. I hope leaders of both parties will join me in condemning it.”