President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted a video attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., for the way she phrased a reference to 9/11, adding fuel to a controversy that has swelled in Republican political circles this week. By Saturday morning, dozens of lawmakers and public figures had denounced the social media post and the sentiments behind it.
The video showed snippets of comments Omar made last month at a banquet for a Muslim civil rights organization, in which she referred to the terrorist attacks as “some people did something,” interspersed with footage of the twin towers burning.
“WE WILL NEVER FORGET!” Trump tweeted, along with the video.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., denounced the use of the imagery in a statement Saturday morning from Germany, where she is visiting troops.
“The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground, and any discussion of it must be done with reverence,” Pelosi said. “The President shouldn’t use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack.
“As we visit our troops in Stuttgart to thank them and be briefed by them, we honor our first responsibility as leaders to protect and defend the American people,” the statement continued. “It is wrong for the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to fan the flames to make anyone less safe.”
On Thursday, the New York Post had helped set the tone for the president’s tweet by publishing a front page with Omar’s comments over a similar image of the twin towers.
The remarks in question came in March, as Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, spoke about anti-Islamic bias at an event held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil liberties group. The white-supremacist shooting that left 50 Muslim worshipers dead at two mosques in New Zealand had occurred the week before.
“For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” she said, in the middle of a roughly 20-minute speech. “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. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange and that I am trying to make myself look pleasant. You have to say that this person is looking at me strange, I am not comfortable with it, and I am going to talk to them and ask them why. Because that is the right you have.” (CAIR was founded in 1994.)
The speech had drawn a protest outside at the time and even news coverage from conservative-leaning outlets such as the Washington Times, which noted that she told fellow Muslims to “raise hell” and “make people uncomfortable” as they sought to defend their rights.
But this week conservatives began to focus on a different portion of the speech, after CAIR posted a video on Tuesday: the four words she used to refer to 9/11, as “some people did something.”
The comments were the focus of harsh broadsides from people like Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Donald Trump Jr., and “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade, who questioned whether Omar, a Somali refuge, was “an American first.”
On Saturday morning at a town hall in a seafood restaurant near Charleston, S.C., Beto O’Rourke described the president’s tweet and the video it contained and then denounced it in a monologue that lasted several minutes. As he spoke, many in the crowd gasped or exclaimed at the description, then applauded O’Rourke’s response: that the video is a continuation of rhetoric used by the president and his administration against Mexican immigrants, asylum-seekers, Muslims and others.
“There is a cost and there is a consequence to this rhetoric — hate crimes in this country up every single one of the last three years,” he said. “This is an incitement to violence against Congresswoman Omar, against our fellow Americans who happen to be Muslim.”
Several Democratic presidential candidates, including Gov. Jay Inslee, Pete Buttigieg and Julián Castro, also condemned the president’s remarks.