Amash Fact Checks Ilhan Omar's Claims of 'Historic' Progress

Ilhan Omar (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
January 4, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) incorrectly attributed historic firsts to the 116th Congress during its first day in session, as pointed out by Rep. Justin Amash (R., Mich.).

Listing purported reasons for the new Congress to "be proud," Omar made a series of claims on Twitter Thursday about its makeup, celebrating features like age, nationality, race and sex.


Omar claimed the Congress included the "1st Palestinian-American," presumably in reference to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.). Tlaib is the first female Palestinian-American elected to Congress. Omar has previously touted Tlaib's heritage.

However, Tlaib is not the first Palestinian-American elected to the body. In reply to Omar's incorrect tweet, Amash pointed out that he has been Palestinian and in Congress since the 112th Congress. "My father is Palestinian, and I’ve been in Congress since 2011," he wrote.

In fact, Republican John E. Sununu, who served as a congressman and senator from New Hampshire for 12 years starting in 1997, also predates Omar's claim. His father, former White House chief of staff John H. Sununu, traces his paternal lineage to Greek Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem.

In addition, Omar claimed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) was the youngest elected at 28. Ocasio-Cortez, born Oct. 13, 1989, was 29 when elected.

Though Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest ever female member of congress, dozens of elected congressmen were younger when they first took office. Of those, several served after Omar already lived in the United States. Rep. Adam Putnam (R., Fla.) was 26 when he entered office in 2001. Rep. Aaron Schock (R., Ill.) was 27 when he first won election in 2008.

Omar has made a number of inaccurate or misleading statements, both about world affairs and her own views. After claiming on the campaign trail to oppose anti-Israel boycotts, she reversed course once elected. The Jewish Daily Forward described the "change in tune" as "a bait-and-switch to many Jewish Minnesotans; she was directly asked her stance on BDS at an August primary debate held in a synagogue."

She also came under scrutiny for claiming in a 2012 tweet that Israel had "hypnotized the world." Israel has not hypnotized the world.

Omar is in fact the first Somali-American refugee elected to Congress.