Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that she believes President Trump’s recent Twitter attack on Representative Ilhan Omar has created “real danger” for the freshman congresswoman, and has asked Capitol Police to conduct a security assessment to “safeguard” Omar, her family, and her staff.
On Friday, President Trump tweeted a video featuring news footage of the World Trade Center and Pentagon being attacked on 9/11 to target Omar, one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, including the message “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!” The Islamophobic tweet and video, which sought to sow outrage over comments Omar made last month highlighting the Islamophobia which followed 9/11, then remained pinned to the top of Trump’s Twitter feed through Saturday.
Pelosi was one of many Democrats, including all of the major candidates for president, to decry Trump’s tweet over the weekend and conclude that the attack could lead to real harm being done to Omar by one of Trump’s supporters. “The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” Pelosi said in a statement. “President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.”
Omar, the first woman to wear a hijab in Congress, has faced regular death threats since taking office, particularly since her faith, outspoken politics, and controversial criticism of Israel’s U.S. lobbying efforts have made her a popular target on the American right. In a few instances, Omar has used language mirroring anti-Semitic tropes to attack Israel’s influence on U.S. lawmakers, and it has triggered bipartisan criticism, as well as a wave of cynical outrage from Planet Trump. Omar has also been repeated called “un-American” by conservative pundits, resurfacing a well-worn anti-Muslim trope that became popular in the aftermath of 9/11.
The focus of Trump’s tweeted video, however, was part of a speech Omar gave at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in March in which she attempted to differentiate the Islamist terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks — an extremist minority — from the Muslim Americans who were unfairly subjected to Islamophobia as a result.
“CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” Omar said, deliberately omitting the terrorist’s extremist faith in the context of what happened next. Right-wing attacks later focused, predictably, on the “some people did something” part, disingenuously framing the fragment of Omar’s comments as some kind of minimization of the attacks or a denial of the hijackers’ motives. It was, in other words, perfect fodder to resurrect the simple-minded Islamophobia she was criticizing, and President Trump and many of his allies didn’t miss the opportunity — particularly after Omar recently (and correctly) called chief White House xenophobe Stephen Miller a white nationalist.
On Thursday, the New York Post shamelessly devoted its front page to the overblown story, printing an image of the towers of the World Trade Center burning next to the headline, “Here’s Your Something.” The issue prompted the Yemeni American Merchants Association — which represents more than 4,000 New York City bodega owners and was founded in response to President Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban targeting Muslims — to call for a boycott of the Post, noting in a statement that “[the Post’s] rhetoric threatens the safety and wellbeing of Omar, Muslim leaders, and the larger Muslim American community at a time when Islamophobia is at an all-time high.”
Trump’s attack on Omar was a “good thing,” according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. During a Sunday morning appearance on ABC’s This Week, Sanders claimed the president “is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone,” but she also tried to further hype Omar’s characterization of the 9/11 hijackers as well as link it to the representative’s unrelated remarks about Israel. “I think it is a good thing that the president is calling her out for those comments,” Sanders suggested.
When Sanders appeared on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace made a point of saying the show was not “comfortable” playing the whole misleading video, and then asked why the president was “comfortable putting out horrible images like that,” and “does he worry at all about inciting violence against Muslims in general or Ilhan Omar in specific?”
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Sanders replied, insisting that the president — who has lied about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11 and praised the idea of coating the armed forces’ bullets in pig’s blood — isn’t trying to incite violence against Muslims, but is “actually speaking out against it.”