Clyburn Defends Omar: Her Pain ‘More Personal’ Than Descendants of Holocaust Victims

(Updated)

Rep. James Clyburn / Getty Images

House Democratic Whip James Clyburn defended Rep. Ilhan Omar from charges of anti-Semitism Wednesday, arguing that critics ought to consider her personal experience as a refugee from Somalia.

In February, the Minnesota freshman Democrat was forced to apologize by House Democratic leadership after she tweeted that Republican support for Israel was "all about the Benjamins" from AIPAC. Omar apologized "unequivocally," writing that "Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes."

But Omar was back at it weeks later, saying she wanted "to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country," and that she "should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee."

Clyburn defended Omar from those who charged her remarks played in anti-Semitic canards about Jewish dual loyalty, and complained that media outlets were not mentioning the fact that Omar lived through the Somali Civil War and spent years in a Kenyan refugee camp.

"I’m serious about that," he told the Hill. "There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.’ ‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her. I’ve talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain."

Clyburn said he supported a proposed Democratic resolution that would condemn bigotry in general, but not one that targeted Omar. "She won’t be targeted. We’re going to target those people who had her picture on the Twin Towers. This resolution is going to be inclusive; it’s going to be expansive…"

The congressman tweeted a statement on Thursday afternoon expanding on his commitment to honoring personal experiences, while clarifying "I never have, and I never will" minimize the Holocaust.

"To recognize and honor the experiences of one member of our Caucus does mot mean that we ignore or dishonor the experiences of another," Clyburn said.

Update 4:20 p.m.: This story was updated with Rep. Clyburn's statement.