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Ilhan Omar: House Minority Leader McCarthy is a ‘coward' for not condemning 'anti-Muslim bigotry’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (Reuters file photo)

US Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar says Republicans do not have the ability to condemn Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric because they are “normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry,” in the United States.

Omar, a Somali-born American Muslim, made the remarks in an interview with CNN on Sunday where she blasted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for his reaction to Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert's “Islamophobic and racist comments” about Muslims, calling the GOP leader “a liar and a coward.”

“McCarthy is a liar and a coward. He doesn't have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member of his conference,” Omar told co-host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about McCarthy.

Asked why McCarthy does not have the ability to censure such racist remarks, Omar said, “Because this is who they are,” referring to Republicans.

“And we have to be able to stand up to them, and we have to push them to reckon with the fact that their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry,” she added.

Boebert in a statement last week apologized for her recent “Islamophobic and racist comments” after Omar and other Democrats called for an “appropriate action” against her for "anti-Muslim bigotry.”

But after a few days, Boebert showed no sign of remorse, posting a video that described her call with Omar and doubled down on her rhetoric against Muslims.

"Make no mistake. I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can't say the same thing and our country is worse off for it," Boebert said.

During an event in her Colorado district last month, Boebert told the audience about an encounter with Omar in the Capitol — which Omar says never happened. 

“I was getting into an elevator with one of my staffers,” Boebert told the laughing crowd. “You know, we’re leaving the Capitol and we’re going back to my office and we get an elevator and I see a Capitol police officer running to the elevator. I see fret all over his face, and he’s reaching, and the door’s shutting, like I can’t open it, like what’s happening. I look to my left, and there she is. Ilhan Omar. And I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.’ ”

The incident and a subsequent video of Boebert making Islamophobic comments about Omar at an event in September caused outrage at Capitol Hill, with Democrats calling for Boebert to be reprimanded, and being stripped of her committee assignments. Republicans, however, have not shown willing to take those steps.

McCarthy on Friday said Boebert apologized for her actions, including personally, and had a phone call with Omar.

Pressure grows to remove Boebert from committees

Pressure is growing on House Democratic leaders to remove Boebert from the committees over her Islamophobic attacks. 

Asked by the CNN host if Omar thinks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will ultimately move to hold a vote on stripping Boebert of her committee assignments, Omar said she had a conversation with Pelosi and is “very confident that she will take decisive action next week.”

Omar said Pelosi made a “promise to me that she will take care of this,” adding, “I believe her.”

“When I first got to Congress, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be sworn in because there was a ban on the hijab. She promised me that she would take care of it. She fulfilled that promise. She’s made another promise to me that she will take care of this. And I believe her," Omar said. 

“I think it's important for us to say, this kind of language, this kind of hate cannot be condoned by the House of Representatives,” she added. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) expressed frustration that Democratic leaders still haven’t acted against Boebert.

"It’s embarrassing that there is any hesitation on this. How can we have different consequences for different kinds of bigotry or incitement? This should be treated equally and consistently. Incite against a member and you’re stripped. End of story. She refuses to even apologize," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Friday.

“It’s a pretty simple question: does the House accept violent Islamophobia or not?” she continued. "We should feel ashamed every time @IlhanMN or anyone is forced to defend themselves against threats in their workplace alone [because] the institutions they serve in won’t protect them. It’s messed up.”

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), the first Democrat to publicly call for removing Boebert from committees, said a measure to formally condemn anti-Muslim hatred would be “a good thing” and “obviously something that we should do.”

“Personally, I think there need to be consequences directed at Congresswoman Boebert specifically,” he told The Hill.

Bowman argued that removing Boebert from committees should be an act of conscience for Democrats.

“I believe in truth and decency and right and wrong. And I have faith in the American voter in determining the difference and in understanding the difference between someone doing something based on decency and right or wrong, and someone doing something based on being petty and retaliatory,” Bowman said.

“So, sure. If Republicans take control of the House, they can vote to remove certain people from their committees, and you know, they'll do that and that's what will be done. But I really feel strongly that voters, Democrat and Republican, are decent for the most part, and understand the difference between right and wrong, and really care about democracy and really care about moving the country forward in the right direction.”


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