Schakowsky (D) Defends Omar’s Anti-Semitic Comments: ‘She Comes From a Different Culture’

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) defended Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) from charges of anti-Semitism Thursday, arguing she should receive some leeway because of her upbringing in Somalia.

Schakowsky confirmed reports that she yelled at her colleagues during a Democratic caucus meeting to "stop tweeting," after multiple Democrats condemned Omar's remarks that her pro-Israel opponents had "allegiance to a foreign country." At the same time, some Democrats voiced their support for the congresswoman, exposing division in the party.

"This is not a conversation that we ought to have on social media and in the public…" Schakowsky explained on MSNBC. "The majority of us are — vast majority are going to be voting for a resolution that I hope puts this to bed, that says, yes, as a Jew, anti-Semitism is a huge deal, the anti-Semitic acts are up 50 percent over last year."

"But Islamophobia is also a huge problem," she continued, "and I want to tell you that Ilhan Omar is under tremendous attack, death threats. I think maybe she needs some security. And why? Because I think, in part, the Republicans and the media have blown this up to be much more than it is."

Schakowsky revealed Omar had apologized to her, "not only … for the words that she has used, but she apologized personally to me as a Jew."

"I want to tell you, part of being a Jew is to be welcoming to the stranger. And I want to tell you, Ilhan Omar is a refugee from Somalia. She comes from a different culture. She has things to learn," she continued.

"I am not either trivializing anti-Semitism or the things that she said or saying that it's okay that she said them," she clarified. "But what I am saying is that I think this a learning moment for her and a learning moment for the caucus on how to get along."

Schakowsky's comments mirror those from Democratic House Whip James Clyburn, who complained a day earlier that media outlets weren't reporting that Omar lived through the Somali Civil War. "I’ve talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain," he said.