The controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s remarks about the September 11, 2001, terror attacks widened Friday, as progressives and 2020 hopefuls rushed to the Minnesota Democrat’s defense and President Donald Trump amplified the issue by tweeting a video featuring the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Conservatives in recent days have seized on comments Omar made at the Council on American-Islamic Relations last month, in which she said, “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.”
In a tweet on Friday morning, Omar – one of the first two Muslim women in Congress – quoted former President George W. Bush in the wake of the attack as a way of defending her own words.
” ‘The people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!’ ” said Omar, quoting Bush’s words in 2001. “Was Bush downplaying the terrorist attack? What if he was a Muslim.”
Omar’s comments have been repeatedly criticized in conservative circles. The New York Post on Thursday published on its cover an image of the World Trade Center engulfed in flames with a headline “Here’s your something,” and Trump on Friday evening tweeted a video of Omar’s comments interspersed with the destruction of the Twin Towers.
“WE WILL NEVER FORGET!” the President tweeted.
Several of Omar’s Democratic colleagues in Congress – including fellow freshmen Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York – have come to her defense and accused Trump of calling for violence against Omar.
“Members of Congress have a duty to respond to the President’s explicit attack today,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted above a photo of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s anti-Nazi poem titled “First They Came.” “@IlhanMN’s life is in danger. For our colleagues to be silent is to be complicit in the outright, dangerous targeting of a member of Congress. We must speak out.”
Tlaib tweeted, “Enough is enough. No more silence, with NY Post and now Trump taking Ilhan’s words out of context to incite violence toward her, it’s time for more Dems to speak up. Clearly the GOP is fine with this shameful stunt, but we cannot stand by.”
Two senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also responded to Trump’s video Friday.
“Ilhan Omar is a leader with strength and courage. She won’t back down to Trump’s racism and hate, and neither will we,” Sanders wrote after a rally in Wisconsin. “The disgusting and dangerous attacks against her must end.”
Minutes later, Warren followed suit, warning that Trump’s continued attacks threatened Omar’s safety.
“The President is inciting violence against a sitting Congresswoman—and an entire group of Americans based on their religion,” Warren tweeted. “It’s disgusting. It’s shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.”
Omar is one of the most controversial new members of Congress. In the three months since being sworn in she has been at the center of numerous controversies, including making comments criticizing US support for Israel that were seen as invoking anti-Semitic tropes and stereotypes.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly and Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.