Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women and Somali-American elected to the United States Congress, said on Sunday that she has faced increased death threats since President Donald Trump tweeted an edited video that purports to show her being dismissive of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“This is endangering lives,” she said. “It has to stop.”
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Her statement late on Sunday followed an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she has taken steps to ensure the safety of the Minnesota Democrat and the speaker’s call for Trump to take down the video.
Soon after Pelosi’s statement, the video disappeared as a pinned tweet at the top of Trump’s Twitter feed, but it was not deleted.
Pelosi was among the Democrats who had criticised Trump over the tweet, with some accusing him of trying to incite violence against the Muslim politician. An upstate New York man was recently charged with making death threats against her.
Speaking to US media earlier on Sunday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump, saying the president has a duty to highlight Omar’s history of making comments that others deem anti-Semitic or otherwise offensive and that he wished no “ill will” upon the first-term politician.
Trump on Monday tweeted that Omar is “out of control” and criticised Pelosi for defending the Minnesota Democrat.
Trump ‘encourages’ hate
Omar said that since Trump retweeted the video on Friday night, she has received many threats that referred or replied to the posted video.
“Violent crimes and other acts of hate by right-wing extremists and white nationalists are on the rise in this country and around the world,” she said. “We can no longer ignore that they are being encouraged by the occupant of the highest office in the land.” She said: “We are all Americans.”
We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop. pic.twitter.com/gwB2kDUIRp
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) April 15, 2019
Earlier, Pelosi issued a statement while travelling in London, saying she had spoken with congressional authorities “to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family and her staff”.
Pelosi said officials will continue to monitor and assess threats against Ilhan Omar and called on Trump to discourage such behaviour.
“The president’s words weigh a tonne, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” Pelosi said. “President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.”
The video in Trump’s tweet included a snippet from a recent speech Ilhan Omar gave to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in which she described the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center as “some people did something”, along with news footage of the hijacked aeroplanes hitting the Twin Towers. Trump captioned his tweet with, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”
Critics accuse Omar of being flippant in describing the perpetrators of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. She later sought to defend herself by tweeting a quote from President George W Bush, in which the Republican president referred to the attackers as “people” just days after 9/11.
Neither Trump’s tweet nor the video included Omar’s full quote or the context of her comments, which were about Muslims feeling that their civil liberties had eroded after the attacks. The tweet was posted atop Trump’s Twitter feed for much of Sunday, with more than nine million views. It remained lower in the feed after Pelosi requested that the video be pulled.
Following Omar’s speech to CAIR, the New York Post newspaper ran a front-page headline that said, “here’s your something”, along with a photo of the World Trade Center in flames.
The cover prompted the Yemeni American Merchants Association to call for a boycott of the newspaper. Over the weekend, Yemen American bodegas and stores across New York City refused to sell the paper in their stores. The boycott is ongoing.
— YAMAbodegastrikebaby (@YAMAMerchants) April 15, 2019
Celebrities, activists and politicians, including many who have criticised Omar in the past for comments on Israel, came to Omar’s defence under #IStandWithIlhanOmar.
Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who represents Manhattan’s financial district, which was targeted on 9/11, said he had no issues with Omar’s characterisation of the attack.
“I have had some problems with some of her other remarks, but not – but not with that one,” he told CNN’s State of the Union programme.
Omar has received numerous death threats since taking office in January.
Last month, she was the subject of anti-Muslim attack in the West Virginia legislature, where a poster was displayed at a Republican-sponsored gathering that falsely linked her to the 9/11 attacks.