Tlaib Blames Islamophobia for Dem Reaction to Omar's Anti-Semitism

March 11, 2019

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) suggested Islamophobia drove Democratic lawmakers to oppose anti-Semitic statements made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.).

"Why do you think people in your own party reacted so strongly against what [Omar] said?" The Circus host Alex Wagner asked Tlaib in an interview released Sunday.

"You know, I'm trying to figure it out. It's just this past week, I feel, and I know this would be somewhat shocking for some, but I think Islamophobia is very much among the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party," Tlaib responded. "And I know that's hard for people to hear, but there's only been four members of Congress that are of Muslim faith. Three of them currently serve in this institution. More of us need to get elected, but more of us need to understand as we come into this institution that I have a lot of work to do with my colleagues."

Last month during a "Progressive Issues Town Hall" in Washington, D.C., Omar said she wanted "to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country." The comment prompted backlash from members of both political parties.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slammed Omar for "invoking a vile anti-Semitic slur."

Omar did not apologize for her comments, instead repeating the sentiment in tweets directed at fellow Democratic congresswoman Nita Lowey (N.Y.).

The Minnesota Democrat did apologize for anti-Semitic tweets written earlier in February, in which she alleged that AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobbying organization, pays politicians to be pro-Israel. She said a tweet in which she accused Israel of hypnotizing the world and performing evil acts was "unfortunate and offensive."

Tlaib came to Omar's defense in the days after her town hall comments, saying she was inspired by Omar's "strength" and claiming the Minnesota congresswoman was "being targeted just like many civil rights icons before us who spoke out about oppressive policies."

Engel said he was "very disappointed" House Democrats could not put forth a resolution specifically condemning anti-Semitism and what Omar said. His disappointment was echoed by Rep. Ted Deutch (D., Fla.). Democratic leaders opted instead for a generalized resolution condemning various forms of hatred.