White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump intended no harm against Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) with his post on Twitter underlining Omar’s comments downplaying the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She was responding to criticism from Democrats, including presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, who said the tweet was an “incitement to violence” against Omar.
“Certainly, the president is wishing no ill will, and certainly not violence, towards anyone,” Sanders told ABC News’ “This Week” on April 14. “But the President is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her, not only one-time, but history of antisemitic comments,” she said.
Sanders described Omar’s comments as “disgraceful and unbefitting” as a member of Congress and added that she believes its a good thing the president called her out. The top White House aide also accused Democrats of not coming out themselves to criticize their colleague.
“The bigger question is why aren’t Democrats doing the same thing?” she said. “It’s absolutely abhorrent, the comments that she continues to make and has made, and they look the other way.”
In calling out the Democrats, Sanders also referenced an earlier resolution condemning anti-Semitism that came to a vote on March 7, but only after the party broadened the resolution with portions condemning other kinds of hate, including “anti-Muslim bigotry.”
“They do these watered down push-backs that, frankly, they feel like give them enough cover, but aren’t really getting the job done,” Sanders said.
Omar’s description of the 9/11 attack as “some people did something” drew widespread condemnation including from Republican lawmakers, who said her remarks minimized the 9/11 attacks. Some critics claimed the president took Omar’s words out of context in an attempt to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.
Trump’s Twitter post featured clips of news footage from 9/11 against footage from Omar’s speech with the words “September 11, 2001. We remember.”
WE WILL NEVER FORGET! pic.twitter.com/VxrGFRFeJM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2019
Omar’s full comment was made during remarks at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) fundraiser last month:
“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. 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.”
Trump told reporters on March 8 that Democrats have now become “an anti-Israel party, they’ve become an anti-Jewish party” after Omar—a Somalia-born Muslim—sparked fresh criticism for questioning why U.S. lawmakers support Israel.
Omar appeared to respond to Trump’s video in a string of Twitter posts on April 13. In one of her tweets, she said that “No one person – no matter how corrupt, inept, or vicious – can threaten my unwavering love for America. I stand undeterred to continue fighting for equal opportunity in our pursuit of happiness for all Americans.”
Previously, Omar said that “Israel has hypnotized the world” and supported the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions” movement. Omar also took to Twitter in February to insinuate that Jewish group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was behind a scheme to exchange funding for politicians in return for support of Israel. After a fierce backlash from across the political spectrum, she apologized, but also suggested she was being criticized for speaking her mind.
Omar’s previous Semitic comments were perceived by many as a smear against lawmakers who support both the United States and Israel, and even earned praise from notorious anti-Semite, former KKK leader David Duke.
Explaining why the resolution was amended from its original version that only condemned anti-Semitism, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on March 7 that a new version of the resolution was expanded to “speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, anti-white supremacy and all the forms that it takes.” The speaker, however, added that it is up to Omar to “explain” her remarks.