Pelosi: Omar Isn't Anti-Semitic, Didn't Understand the 'Full Weight of The Words'

March 7, 2019

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) defended embattled Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) over her latest anti-Semitism controversy, saying Thursday she didn't think Omar understood the "full weight of the words" she used.

Omar accused Jewish colleagues and constituents last week of deeming her anti-Israel positions as anti-Semitic because she's a Muslim, and she also invoked the dual loyalty canard when she questioned the "political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country."

Last month, Pelosi said Omar's invocation of another anti-Semitic trope about money—Omar tweeted it was "all about the Benjamins" for pro-Israel politicians—was offensive and merited an apology.

She had a different tune on Thursday as she deals with a potential emerging schism in her new House majority.

"I don't think that the congresswoman perhaps appreciated the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don't believe it was intended in any anti-Semitic way," Pelosi said. "But the fact is if that's how it was interpreted, we have to remove all doubt, as we have done over and over again."

Pelosi mentioned the proposed Democratic resolution that could be voted on Thursday condemning "all hate," which caused an uproar in her caucus, with some supporters of Omar wondering why it was necessary and feeling she was still being unfairly singled out. Other Democrats like Rep. Ted Deutch (D., Fla.) said Omar needed to understand why her remarks were offensive.

It would be the second public rebuke of Omar in as many months, after her "Benjamins" flap last month for which she said she "unequivocally" apologized. Nevertheless, the vehemently anti-Israel congresswoman, who once tweeted the Jewish state had "hypnotized" the world, keeps finding herself in the middle of such situations.

Asked if Omar should apologize, Pelosi demurred.

"She may need to explain that she did not—it's up to her to explain, but I do not believe that she understood the full weight of the words," Pelosi said. "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."