Democrats Blow Up at Each Other Over Omar's Latest Anti-Semitism Scandal: 'Everyone Stop Tweeting!'

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
March 6, 2019

House Democrats blew up at each other Wednesday over intra-party attacks and a proposed resolution viewed as a rebuke to Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D., Minn.) latest anti-Semitic remarks, exposing a divide in the caucus.

After news broke of Democrats planning to vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in response to Omar, and later adding language condemning anti-Muslim bias as well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said there may be no vote on one at all. Adding to the embarrassment for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and her members is the resolution would be the second congressional maneuver made in as many months to indirectly respond to Omar's anti-Semitic statements.

At a closed-door meeting reported on by the Washington Post, nerves and emotions were raw following party leadership's reaction to Omar's latest broadside: questioning the political influence in the United States that she says forces "allegiance to a foreign country." This came after her remarks last month, where she tweeted "it's all about the Benjamins" for pro-Israel politicians, suggesting they were paid off by Jewish lobbyists. She apologized for the latter remarks "unequivocally."

While Omar has defended her most recent comments, she has been criticized by some members of her own party, including House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), who said she had invoked a "vile anti-Semitic slur." Rep. Juan Vargas (D., Calif.) was blistered by fellow Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) after tweeting his displeasure with Omar for her questioning of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

"She could have come down the hall and asked me what my opinion is. That would have been fine," Vargas said of Ocasio-Cortez's response on Twitter. "We have a very different opinion here, I believe. To question someone’s loyalty because they’re Jewish, I think, is terrible. It’s something that we shouldn’t question at all."

The Post reported that at one point during the meeting, Pelosi ally Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) pleaded: "Everyone stop tweeting!"

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) admonished her colleagues to iron out their differences in private, for fear of letting Republicans divide them.

Some members, like Congressional Black Caucus member Cedric Richmond (D., La.), were angry Omar was being singled out at all.

"I think there’s a big rise in anti-Semitism and racism, and that’s a bigger conversation we need to be having," Richmond said. "But it starts at 1600 Pennsylvania. It doesn’t start with one member out of 435 members of Congress."

CBC chair Karen Bass (D., Calif.) said it was "inappropriate to just focus on one person," according to the Hill.

"We need to have equity in our outrage," said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), calling the matter a "distraction."

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., N.J.) didn't know why Democrats were putting forth a resolution in the first place.

"We’ve individually and collectively already responded to the fact that we oppose all ‘-isms’ that do not treat people in this country fairly and justly," she said. "To continue to engage in this discussion is simply an opportunity to give both the media and Republicans distractions from our agenda. We’ve got important work to do."

Pelosi criticized the media and said the Omar issue would be resolved, according to the Post.

"I think you make more of it than there is . . . the press loves to foment unease in the Democratic Party but we are very united" about the party agenda, she said.

"If you say the bacon is not crispy enough, they'll have an article about this unrest and unease in the Democratic Party," Pelosi said, according to the Hill.