Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) claimed during an interview broadcast on Sunday that she did not know that she was “trafficking in anti-Semitism” by making alleged anti-Semitic remarks.
Omar’s comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” come as she faces the prospect of being removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her previous statements and hostility toward Israel.
“I might have used words at the time that I didn’t understand were trafficking in antisemitism,” she said. “When that was brought to my attention, I apologized. I owned up to it. That’s the kind of person that I am.”
Omar claimed that Republicans wanting to hold her accountable for her previous comments was “politically motivated.”
Host Dana Bash brought up some of Omar’s past remarks and actions.
“I’m told that Republicans presented a list in their meeting, in a private meeting, this past week,” Bash said. “Included in that list is that you said that Israel hypnotized the world. You said Israel is an apartheid regime, that politicians with pro-Israel stance – stances were all about the Benjamins, which you very notably apologized for, that you support the BDS movement, which a lot of people think is rooted in antisemitism, compared the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.”
Omar responded: “I certainly did not or was not aware that the word hypnotize was a trope. I wasn’t aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money. That has been a very enlightening part of this journey.”
“To insinuate that I knowingly said these things, when people have read into my comments to make it sound as if I have something against the Jewish community, is so wrong,” she continued.
Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar claims on CNN that she was "not aware that the word 'hypnotized' was a trope" and "wasn't aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money."
Give me a break. That's BS. pic.twitter.com/YesRd4RpNI
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) January 29, 2023
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Well, let me ask you, Congresswoman Omar, about what Republicans are saying about you, that there is a pattern of antisemitic and other controversial statements that make you unfit to sit on, in your case, the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
I’m told that Republicans presented a list in their meeting, in a private meeting, this past week. Included in that list is that you said that Israel hypnotized the world. You said Israel is an apartheid regime, that politicians with pro-Israel stance — stances were all about the Benjamins, which you very notably apologized for, that you support the BDS movement, which a lot of people think is rooted in antisemitism, compared the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.
I want to give you a chance to respond to all of that, which they say is a clear pattern.
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Yes, I might have used words at the time that I didn’t understand were trafficking in antisemitism. When that was brought to my attention, I apologized. I owned up to it. That’s the kind of person that I am.
And I continue to work with my colleagues and my community to fight against antisemitism. Now, I have never compared or made any comparisons. What I was referencing was a case that was in front of the ICC. And if they want to debate political differences, and that’s something that we should all have the opportunity to do so, but to smear someone and their character, their love for their country and the work that they get to do on a committee is wrong.
And it is politically motivated. And, in some cases, it’s motivated by the fact that many of these members don’t believe a Muslim, a refugee, an African should even be in Congress, let alone have the opportunity to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
BASH: You have said that before.
It sounds like you’re accusing Kevin McCarthy of racism.
OMAR: I mean, I’m not making any accusations. I’m just laying out the facts.
You remember Donald Trump coming into my state and saying, Muslims, Somali refugees are infiltrating our country. You remember Marjorie Taylor Greene coming to Congress after Rashida and I got sworn in and saying, Muslims are infiltrating Congress. You remember Boebert saying that I was a terrorist.
What did McCarthy do? He said, she apologized, and we don’t have to worry about her Islamophobia.
That never happened.
And so these people are OK with Islamophobia. They’re OK with trafficking in their own ways in antisemitism. They are not OK with having a Muslim have a voice on that committee.
BASH: I just — I do, though, want to ask, because this has been out there. And it is definitely a big issue that we we’re going to — we’re going to hear a lot more about on the House floor next week, Congresswoman.
So when you apologized for the — all about the Benjamins comment, you said: “Antisemitism is real. And I’m grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes.”
What did you learn?
OMAR: A lot.
I certainly did not or was not aware that the word hypnotize was a trope. I wasn’t aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money. That has a been very enlightening part of this journey.
To insinuate that I knowingly said these things, when people have read into my comments to make it sound as if I have something against the Jewish community, is so wrong. If you remember, when I first got elected to Congress, it was when the FBI report came out on the rise of antisemitism. As a rep-elected, the first op-ed I wrote was on that report, which I talked about how it was important for us, as a community, to coalesce around the Jewish community and fight against antisemitism.
I voted for every single resolution — no Republican can say that — condemning antisemitism. My work is clear. The collaboration and work that I do with my Jewish colleagues is very clear. The reason that the Democratic Caucus has not removed me and will not support my removal on the Foreign Affairs Committee is because I have done the work…
BASH: Do you think you will have…
OMAR: … to make sure that I do not support any bigotry.
BASH: Two Republicans have already come out in support of you, saying that they won’t vote to remove you. They can lose, what, one other, maybe two others. Do you think, next week, when the House votes, that you will have enough votes? And have you talked to other Republicans?
OMAR: What I do know is that the two Republicans that have been public and some that have privately said that they are not going to vote to remove me are doing so because they don’t want to be seen as hypocrites. They have taken a position in the last Congress, and they will continue to do that.
And I believe that that is a really important piece here, because threat stance to stand behind to members that were accused of inciting violence and threatening the lives of members of Congress was to say the minority — that the majority should not have the job of removing the minority from their committees.
And I hope that they keep their word.
Related: Republican Nancy Mace Again Defends ‘Anti-Semite,’ ‘Racist,’ ‘Socialist’ Ilhan Omar