President Donald Trump is now using 9/11 imagery to attack Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of only two Muslim women ever elected to Congress.
On Friday evening, Trump tweeted and pinned to his account a video that juxtaposed remarks Omar made last month with imagery of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “WE WILL NEVER FORGET,” he wrote. Right-wing politicians and media publications have latched onto a handful of words Omar said and are attempting to characterize them as a flippant disregard of 9/11.
"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 at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Los Angeles. Her comments were part of a larger speech about Muslim life in the United States.
Many on the right have taken the words “some people did something” as an attempt to downplay the terrorist attack and as disrespectful to those who suffered. Omar also inaccurately stated that CAIR was founded after 9/11. It was founded in 1994, though it increased civil-rights advocacy initiatives after Sept. 11, 2001.
The tweet was Trump’s most pointed attack against the congresswoman yet and has caused fierce outrage from the left, who say the president is endangering Omar and her family with anti-Muslim rhetoric. Omar has already received numerous death threats, one of which lead to an arrest of a man just this month.
Omar’s allies are now rushing to the freshman congresswoman’s defense and claiming that the president is endangering her safety. In addition to the video, Trump retweeted an account that pondered why Omar was allowed to walk the halls of Congress. His son, Donald Trump Jr., also retweeted a meme Friday that included a racist, Islamophobic conspiracy theory linking Omar to terrorism.
Numerous 2020 candidates have spoken out on Omar’s behalf. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both tweeted that the president’s attacks against Omar, who has so far remained silent about the president’s video, were dangerous. Jay Inslee and Julian Castro also condemned Trump’s comments.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent much of Friday evening tweeting in defense of Omar and calling on other politicians to defend the often-targeted freshman member of Congress.
“Members of Congress have a duty to respond to the President’s explicit attack today,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Many sitting politicians did respond to Ocasio-Cortez’s call to defend Omar.
The nation’s top Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, waited overnight to speak out in Omar’s defense, which many journalists and Omar supporters have noted. Pelosi did not mention Omar by name in her defense, which triggered some backlash.
“The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground, and any discussion of it must be done with reverence. The President shouldn’t use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack,” Pelosi tweeted.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has yet to comment.
A groundswell of grassroots support, however, has emerged for Omar since Friday. On Saturday afternoon, #IStandWithIlhan was trending on Twitter. Omar’s own daughter, the 16-year-old climate activist Isra Hirsi, tweeted out a public message of support for her mother.
Omar has already faced repeated backlash over her criticism of Israel, which both Republicans and some Democrats have painted as anti-Semitic, as well as her open support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel’s human-rights abuses against Palestinians.
Her defenders, however, say that the attacks are nothing more than an attempt to silence Congress’ most vocal critic of Israel.
Cover image: Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., right, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., attend a rally with Democrats in the Capitol to introduce the "Equality Act," which will amend existing civil rights legislation to bar discrimination based on gender identification and sexual orientation on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)