Omar Admits She May Have Flubbed Facts in Story Told to High School Students

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
July 9, 2019 Updated: July 9, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) admitted that she may have embellished parts of a story she told to a large group of high school students in order to illustrate “racism, cruelty, and injustice” in American society.

The Washington Post reported that Omar recently told 400 Richfield High School students that she was sent to the courts to report on problems for a Minneapolis city councilman five years ago.

She recalled in one of the cases that there was a “sweet, old … African American lady” who had to spend a weekend in jail after stealing a $2 loaf of bread to feed her “starving 5-year-old granddaughter.”

Omar said she couldn’t hold her emotions and yelled an expletive in the courtroom after the woman was fined $80 for the offense.

“I couldn’t control my emotions,” Omar told the Post, “because I couldn’t understand how a roomful of educated adults could do something so unjust.”

The Post, however, offered some evidence to show that suggests the story Omar told may not have been entirely true.

“Omar’s story echoed the plot of ‘Les Miserables.’ If true, it is also probably embellished. City officials said that police aren’t allowed to arrest people for shoplifting unless there’s a likelihood of violence or further crime. Typically, shoplifters are sentenced to attend a three-hour class,” reporters Greg Jaffe and Souad Mekhennet wrote.

The writers then noted after they asked Omar about the details, she admitted that may have misstated some facts when telling the story.

“She might have had a prior [arrest],” Omar said, according to the newspaper. “I’m not sure. … The details might not have all matched, but that’s what I remember.”

This is not the first time the freshman congresswoman has been caught embellishing facts to support her arguments.

Last month, Omar tweeted that on average 500 people are killed from gun violence each day in the United States as she tried to push a bill on background checks for firearm sales.

“Gun violence is an epidemic. Every day on average 500 people die from gun violence. How many more lives will we let gun violence claim?” she wrote.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 39,773 firearm deaths on average in 2017 across the nation. This means on average 109 people die from firearm deaths per day, which is a number significantly lower to what Omar claimed.

Omar has also been in the spotlight numerous times for controversies and remarks she made since being voted into Congress.

Early last month, Omar was ordered to repay her former campaign committee nearly $3,500 for using campaign money to pay for personal travel and help with her tax returns. Moreover, she is also required to pay a civil penalty of $500 to the state for using campaign money to travel to a conference in Florida, where she received an honorarium for speaking at the event, according to the board’s investigation findings (pdf).

Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.