An MSNBC panel aired and parroted a misleading claim from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) Tuesday, seeking to tar Republicans while Democrats grapple with an anti-Semitism scandal.
MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell screened and read a tweet from Ocasio-Cortez suggesting there was a double standard in punishing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) after she came under fire for anti-Semitic statements. Ocasio-Cortez insisted others should have been reprimanded if action is warranted against Omar. She seemed to imply Omar said something deserving reprimand, but has yet to actually say so.
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One of the things that is hurtful about the extent to which reprimand is sought of Ilhan is that no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities (during the shutdown, a GOP member yelled "Go back to Puerto Rico!" on the floor). https://t.co/MwrRN4v4DG
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 5, 2019
"She's got a point," Mitchell said about Ocasio-Cortez's tweet.
"Yes she does have a point," MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capeheart agreed.
The tweet, however, gave the example of a remark Rep. Jason Smith (R., Mo.) made on the House floor in January, which was initially misreported. Ocasio-Cortez described "a GOP member [who] yelled ‘Go back to Puerto Rico!' on the floor" as someone deserving "reprimand."
Smith directed the comment towards Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D., Calif.), who is Mexican American and not Puerto Rican, and other Democrats who had just spent time in Puerto Rico during January's lengthy government shutdown.
Cárdenas is the chairman of Bold PAC, the fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that just returned from a weekend trip to Puerto Rico. The trip was heavily criticized by conservative media and President Donald Trump for its timing.
Smith said in a statement that he was "speaking to all the Democrats who were down vacationing in Puerto Rico last weekend during the shutdown, not any individual member," saying it was "not true" that the remark was a personal attack.
Ocasio-Cortez tweeted immediately after the incident, calling Smith's comment a "racist remark." Shortly thereafter, she deleted the tweet—an apparent acknowledgment of her error.
Now, Ocasio-Cortez revived the false narrative, and Mitchell and her "Andrea Mitchell Reports" panel promoted her argument.
Capeheart maintained that Republicans had the bigotry problem, not Democrats. "That's not to say that the controversy surrounding Omar is not legitimate, but there seems to be selective outrage," he said. "And when it's been coming from the Republican side of the aisle, the Republican side of the aisle is mute. They don't hold their members accountable for anything."
"Belatedly on Steve King," Mitchell corrected.
Republican leadership stripped Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) of all committee assignments after a series of comments about foreigners and ethnic minorities. Omar, only in her third month in Congress, remains on the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee.
Returning to Omar's defense, Capeheart insisted the standards in Congress—not being anti-Semitic, for example—were new to the far-left members of Congress just elected.
"Remember, she is a freshman member of Congress," he said. "She is part of this class of activists that are making the transition from the streets to the inside, to the halls of power. And there's a completely different way of behavior, of ways of doing things."
Omar is 37 years old. She is under fire from Democrats, Republicans, and numerous Jewish organizations for repeatedly peddling Jewish caricatures and accusing American Jews of nefarious political influence.
During an event in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday, Omar gladly took on past accusations of anti-Semitism, and in the process, made fresh anti-Semitic comments. "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country," she said. The comment provoked condemnation from members of both parties.
Omar responded by making additional anti-Semitic comments. After Rep. Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.) tweeted, "Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel," Omar responded that members of Congress should not be "expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country" in order to serve or sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Capeheart argued Omar—he hopes—is "learning."
"And what we're seeing now, in real time, and uncomfortably, is she is learning, or at least I hope she's learning, what she's going through, and she can still, you know, change her behavior without changing what she believes," he said.
It is unclear what Capeheart thinks Omar believes, or how it differs from the anti-Semitic comments she has made. Omar has yet to take questions from reporters since her latest comments.