Rep. Dan Kildee (D., Mich.) defended Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D., Minn.) Sunday night tweets criticizing Republican lawmakers for being bought by the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC.
"I wouldn't take it as anti-Semitism," Kildee said on CNN's "New Day." "I would say that she probably objects to the fact that when it comes to issues around foreign policy, or comes to issue specifically to Israel, there are a lot of interests, a lot of folks who make campaign contributions based on a person's position on Israel."
On Sunday night, Omar linked to a tweet by Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, which criticized Republicans for calling out Omar and her fellow freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) for being anti-Israel. Omar wrote, "It's all about the Benjamins baby."
It's all about the Benjamins baby 🎶 https://t.co/KatcXJnZLV
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 10, 2019
Forward opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon responded to call out Omar for using an "anti-Semitic trope" and asked her who is "paying American politicians to be pro-Israel."
"AIPAC!" Omar responded.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
Kildee was asked to explain Omar's suggestion that Republicans who criticize her rhetoric have been bought by "Jewish money."
"People look at that and say ‘is there a member of Congress, a Democratic member of Congress saying that somehow Jewish money is controlling thought?'" CNN host John Berman asked.
"Well, I haven't seen those comments and obviously that's not something that I would agree with or associate myself with. I assume she's using the vernacular, saying it's just about money," Kildee said.
"There are people that look at that saying ‘that's the problem. What she's insinuating or implying directly is that Jewish money is somehow controlling certain Democrats and people's positions toward Israel,'" Berman said. "And there are those who look at that and say ‘isn't that just like saying George Soros is pulling the strings or Michael Bloomberg is pulling the strings?' [It's] veiled anti-Semitism, they'll note."
Kildee said he didn't view it as anti-Semitism.
"I think we ought to be careful not to construe that in anything other than a concern about the fact that money has undue influence on political decision-making. I know Congresswoman Omar. I don't believe that she would harbor those sorts of views, as they've been characterized. Obviously it's a problem that she wants to address," Kildee added. "But I don't think we should go too far in trying to make judgments about whether there's some anti-Semitism involved in it."
When asked about his colleague Rep. Max Rose (D., N.Y.) calling out Omar's tweets as "hateful and offensive," Kildee said people generally should tamp down the rhetoric in today's political discourse.
"I think sometimes we got tamp down a bit of the rhetoric when characterizing what people are saying and not make assumptions that take us too far," Kildee said.
In addition to Rose, Jewish organizations and even Chelsea Clinton called out Omar for her tweets on Sunday night.
Throughout the segment, Berman didn't bring up Omar's "AIPAC" comment or her temporary retweet of a Jewish progressive criticizing her remarks. Joshua Zeitz wrote how he's often critical of Israel but that Omar "might as well call us hook-nosed." The congresswoman undid the retweet shortly after.