Pelosi Defends Omar: 'She Has a Different Experience In the Use of Words'

March 8, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) defended Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) against accusations of anti-Semitism.

Pelosi's comments came during a Friday interview at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C., where she addressed the resolution House Democrats passed Thursday afternoon condemning hate of all forms. Regarding Omar, whose recent comments sparked calls for the resolution, Pelosi said she does not believe the Minnesota congresswoman is anti-Semitic.

"I think she has a different experience in the use of words, and doesn't understand that some of them are fraught with meaning that didn't realize, but nonetheless that we had to address," Pelosi said.

Omar most recently came under fire after she accused Jewish Americans of having "allegiance to a foreign power."

Pelosi made a similar statement on Thursday, when she told reporters at a press conference that she believes Omar didn't understand "the full weight" of how other people understood her words.

"When you cross that threshold into Congress, your words weigh much more than when you're shouting at somebody outside, and I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude, but that she didn't have a full appreciation of how they landed on other people, where these words have a history and cultural impact that may have been unknown to her," Pelosi said.

Other Democratic responses, however, have been harsher against Omar's remarks. Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) said he wished House Democrats had delivered a stronger response to her anti-Semitic remarks.

"This resolution is a fine resolution and I will support it, but I am very disappointed that we weren't able to have a separate resolution to specifically condemn anti-Semitism and what our colleague said that really was a very hateful term," he said Thursday.

Still others have come to Omar's defense, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.).

Sanders characterized Omar as anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic. Ocasio-Cortez framed Omar as a victim of hatred, in a series of tweets.

In 2012, Omar tweeted Israel had "hypnotized the world." Earlier this year, she released and then later apologized for other anti-Semitic tweets, many of which have been quietly deleted.

Late Thursday, Omar and fellow freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) released a joint statement condemning hate. It did not include an apology for Omar's anti-Semitic remarks.