Media Completely Ignore Ilhan Omar Endorsing Violence Against a Senator

A member of Congress mocked the physical assault of another member, and only conservatives recognized that was outrageous

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) / Getty Images
July 30, 2019

Did I just imagine things yesterday, or did Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) not endorse a tweet mocking violence against a Republican senator and saying it was "no wonder" it happened? I ask because I distinctly remember writing about it, and seeing it appear on other conservative websites. I can't seem to find anything about it on the dozens of mainstream outlets that you'd think would be on top of something like that.

The whole thing got started when Rand Paul publicly offered to pay to send the "ungrateful" Omar back to her native Somalia so she could learn to appreciate the United States. Paul's comment were unquestionably stupid and offensive, but in patented Squad fashion, Omar responded by upping the stupid factor and retweeting a tweet from Resistance Twitterererer and former actor Tom Arnold.

For those who don't recall, Paul was hospitalized in 2017 after being attacked from behind by a disgruntled neighbor. The senator suffered six broken ribs and suffered lung damage which later led to a bout of pneumonia that effectively sidelined him from his congressional duties. His attacker was sentenced to 30 days in prison, and was ordered by a jury to pay Paul $500,000 for the substantial physical and emotional trauma. Hilarious!

A key part of Omar's political narrative revolves around the threats of physical violence she's faced, and in particular how her critics are responsible for those threats. When Republican Texas Rep. David Crenshaw accused Omar of minimizing the 9/11 attacks with her much-parsed "some people did something" comments, that was "dangerous incitement" according to her. When Trump cut a video attacking the same remarks and splicing in 9/11 footage, other Democrats picked up the slack; presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said he was "inciting violence." Her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., VT) called it "dangerous." Not to be outdone, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., NY) compared Omar to Holocaust victims and said "[Ilhan's] life is in danger."

Omar can't have it both ways. You can't insist that the merely harsh, unfair, bigoted, etc. criticism you face is "incitement to violence," but then give your stamp of approval to comments that actually make direct reference to and delight in violence against your enemies. For the hypocrisy angle alone, Omar's comments were newsworthy.

I expected muted mainstream media coverage of Omar's retweet. What I didn't expect was almost literally zero coverage. Per a Google search, outside of explicitly conservative and libertarian outlets, the Omar retweet was covered by Mediaite (which features both conservative and liberal writers), Newsweek (formerly a mainstream media outlet, now more of a bankrupt clickbait factory), and as I was writing this piece, by Paul's hometown paper, the Louisville Courier Journal. That's it. The mainstream media seem to have deigned that one member of Congress laughing it up about another being assaulted and hospitalized is neither newsworthy nor controversial!

Well, that isn't entirely true. The Washington Post mentioned the retweet in a brief aside in a larger piece on Paul's comments to Omar.

"On Sunday, after reports of Paul’s comments began to circulate widely, Omar retweeted a post by comedian Tom Arnold appearing to make light of a 2017 incident in which the Kentucky Republican was assaulted by a neighbor. The retweet sparked outrage among conservatives, including the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr."

"Congresswoman Ilhan Omar retweeting calls for political violence against @randpaul," Trump Jr. said in a tweet. "I’m not surprised, and look forward to the forthcoming silence from the media on the issue."

I suppose that Trump Jr. quote is supposed to be some great gotcha, because of course, here's a media outlet covering it. But he was basically right. Every other mainstream media outlet remained silent about the retweet, and the reporter only brought it up in the course of attacking Paul from the viewpoint that his comments were an outrage but Omar's were just a sideshow that only conservatives cared about.

The saddest thing here isn't the "conservatives pounce" framing, it's that the Post's summary is basically accurate. A member of Congress mocked the physical assault of another member, and only conservatives recognized that was outrageous. That liberals ignored the jab was sad. That the media ignored it is a dereliction of duty.