Rep. Ilhan Omar responded Thursday to what she described as President Trump’s “fascist rhetoric,” arguing that the president’s call for her to “go back” to her country is aimed not just at her but at all those who come from a similar background.
Omar (D-Minn.) was speaking one day after a Trump campaign rally at which the crowd responded to the president’s criticism of Omar by chanting: “Send her back! Send her back!”
“When you have a president who clearly thinks someone like me should ‘go back,’ the message that he’s sending is not for me — [it’s] to every single person who shares an identity with me, and he’s telling them that this is not their country,” Omar told reporters at the Capitol.
She said that her message, by contrast, is the one she delivered in Minnesota in November after she won election to the House: “We don’t just welcome refugees, right? We send them to Washington.”
Trump said Thursday afternoon that he disagreed with the “Send her back!” chant, even though he has used almost identical language to attack Omar in recent days.
In a Sunday tweet, Trump said that Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to “the crime infested places from which they came.” Three of those lawmakers — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — are from the United States. Omar was born in Somalia and became a U.S. citizen in 2000.
Omar also responded Thursday to remarks by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a onetime Trump critic who has become one of the president’s most vocal defenders on Capitol Hill.
Graham had defended Trump’s comments, contending that “a Somali refugee wearing a MAGA hat, he doesn’t want to send you back. You’d probably have dinner at the White House.”
“A Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back,” Graham told reporters at the Capitol. “If you’re a racist, you want everybody from Somalia to go back, because they’re black or they’re Muslim.”
Omar said Graham was essentially arguing that a Somali person wearing a MAGA hat would not be deported, “but because I criticize the president, I should be deported.”
“I want to remind people that this is what this president and his supporters have turned our country [into] — that is supposed to be a country where we allow democratic debate and dissent to take place,” she said. “And so, this is not about me. This is about us fighting for what this country truly should be and what it deserves to be.”
Omar also received support from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who sent a fundraising email to supporters noting that he was having dinner with the Minnesota Democrat and other lawmakers Wednesday night when news of the “Send her back!” chants broke.
“To my surprise, Ilhan was pretty unfazed,” Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in the email. “Sadly, as she told me, she has been dealing with this kind of hatred and racism for a long time.”
He encouraged supporters to make a donation that would be split between his and Omar’s campaigns, to “send a message that we will fight back against Trump’s racism.”