CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers had a novel defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D., Minn.) anti-Semitic comments on Thursday, saying her words would not have sounded anti-Semitic if she had not used them.
Omar has faced criticism from both sides of the aisle for her latest in a series of anti-Semitic comments, this time alleging support for Israel in Congress comes from dual loyalty. This has long been considered an anti-Semitic stereotype—as is the allegation that Jewish interests buy off members of Congress, as she alleged last month—but Powers staunchly defended Omar from CNN commentator Amanda Carpenter's criticism.
"This is the second time [Omar has said something anti-Semitic], and members of Congress have the right to police fellow members of Congress, as they did with Steve King," Carpenter said.
"But it’s not the second time, Amanda," Powers said, "because what she actually said was ‘I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it’s OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.'"
"Yeah, she questioned the allegiance of her colleagues!" Carpenter retorted. "That’s why her colleagues would want to take action."
"But not Jewish colleagues, that’s the point," Powers said.
"There’s Jewish colleagues included in that," Carpenter pointed out.
"Right, but what I’m saying is she’s talking specifically about the fact that she doesn’t feel like she can talk about these issues without being called anti-Semitic," Powers said.
"She can’t do it without invoking anti-Semitic tropes," Carpenter replied.
Omar merely should have dropped the key word from her comment, Powers argued.
"She shouldn’t have used the word ‘allegiance,’ I agree with that, but I do think that she’s learning," Powers said.
She did not explain how Omar’s point could be made not anti-Semitic when the key accusation in it is anti-Semitic, although the panelists agreed not saying anything is one way to avoid controversy.
Then Powers argued critics should cut Omar some slack because she’s Muslim.
"She is learning. And I think ... for the first time we have these two Muslim-American women in Congress, and I think that, you know, we need to be able to have a conversation and hear what they are saying without immediately trying to silence them by calling them anti-Semites," Powers said.
This echoes comments from Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.), who said Omar "comes from a different culture."
After Powers argued Congress should be more understanding of Muslim members, commentator Jamal Simmons came in to say Omar is "aligned with a community that is in conflict" with the Israeli government. He didn’t fully explain, but Israel regularly faces attacks from Palestinian terrorists, including Hamas, and it has fought wars defending itself against various Arab countries who declared the state of Israel illegitimate.
Earlier in this episode of "The Lead," Carpenter defended Omar by saying President Donald Trump is worse, a defense many Democrats have also decided to use.