Washington – President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar should resign from Congress or not be allowed to serve on committees following her tweet about Israel, which politicians from both parties decried as anti-Semitic.
“Anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress,” Trump said to reporters at a White House Cabinet meeting. He also called her apology “lame.”
It was the latest fallout for Omar, whose apology came Monday afternoon following an unusual public rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders. Omar’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s remarks.
In a tweet on Sunday, Omar posted a song lyric, “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby" — which she later clarified to say was meant to suggest that money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) drove U.S. politicians to support Israel. It was not the first time that Omar has tweeted criticism of Israel, and before the latest tweet she had already had to work to allay concerns among Twin Cities Jewish groups about past online remarks.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” Omar wrote in her apology. She added that she continues to be concerned by the power of lobbyists in Washington, not just AIPAC but others like the National Rifle Association and the fossil fuel industry.
The White House doubled down on its criticism, with Vice President Mike Pence calling her tweets a disgrace and her apology inadequate. “Those who engage in anti-Semitic tropes should not just be denounced, they should face consequences for their words,” his tweet Tuesday night said.
Several other U.S. House Democrats were critical of Omar’s tweet, including her fellow Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, who is Jewish. Omar has met with several of those members, including Phillips, following the public blowup.
“I spoke privately with Rep. Ilhan Omar today before issuing a statement in the hopes of converting a painful experience into a learning opportunity and a mutual commitment to pursue understanding,” Phillips said in a statement Monday night. “We agreed to move forward with a shared goal of working collaboratively to combat hatred and intolerance towards all persecuted communities, and commit to respectful debate of the issues important to each of us.”
Another critic was Rep. Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Omar, who took office at the beginning of January, won a coveted spot on that panel, as did Phillips. Republicans have called for her removal, but Democratic leaders have not done so.
“Anti-Semitism in any form is unacceptable, and it’s shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money,’ ” Engel said in a statement in response to Omar’s tweet.
Trump’s response on Tuesday to a question from a reporter about Omar was not the first time he talked about her latest controversy. He also commented Monday night in El Paso, Texas: “I think it was a terrible statement and I don’t think her apology was adequate.”
Trump himself has been the subject of frequent criticism from Democrats and some Republicans for tweets and public statements about various groups of people. In one notable example, Trump said there were “some very fine people on both sides” at a public clash between white nationalists and protesters in Virginia. He has also repeatedly referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who once claimed American Indian heritage, as “Pocahontas.”
Omar, who has been a vociferous critic of Trump, did not respond on Twitter to his remarks about her. Another freshman House Democrat with a large Twitter following, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, on Tuesday contrasted Omar’s reaction to the fallout from her tweet with that of Trump himself.
“Unlike this President, [Omar] demonstrated a capacity to acknowledge pain & apologize, use the opportunity to learn history of antisemitism, [and] grow from it while clarifying her stance,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who preceded Omar as Minnesota’s Fifth District U.S. representative, also faced allegations of anti-Semitism for past associations with the Nation of Islam. He said that Omar did the right thing by apologizing.
In arguing for Omar to be stripped of committee assignments, some Republicans cited the recent case of Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King. House GOP leaders condemned King and removed him from his committees following a New York Times interview in which he said, among other things: “White nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
King later said in a House floor speech that “I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district.”
In her own statement, Omar wrote: “I unequivocally apologize.”