Dem apologizes to constituents for Omar's remarks

Dem apologizes to constituents for Omar's remarks
© Greg Nash

A freshman House Democrat apologized to his Jewish constituents during a district town hall this week for comments Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarKrystal Ball reacts to Ocasio-Cortez endorsing Sanders: 'Class power over girl power' The Hill's Morning Report - Tempers boil over at the White House Krystal Ball on Sanders debate performance: 'He absolutely hit it out of the park' MORE (D-Minn.) made questioning U.S.-Israel policy that critics considered anti-Semitic. 

Rep. Max RoseMax RoseHillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets Democratic lawmakers press for white supremacist groups to be labeled foreign terrorist organizations Bottom Line MORE (D-N.Y.), who is Jewish, said he was “horrified” and “sad” when Omar recently said pro-Israel groups “push for allegiance to a foreign country,” a comment many Jewish lawmakers said invoked the myth of dual loyalty to the United States and Israel.

“As a young congressman, I’ve got to tell you I’m sorry,” Rose told a crowd organized by the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island, according to Jewish Insider.

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“You sent me to Congress to take responsibility. You sent me to Congress to have your back," he continued. “And I failed you. Because I know that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments really caused you all a lot of pain by bringing up anti-Semitic tropes.”

At the same time, Rose maintained that Omar shouldn't lose her spot on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — at least for now. House Republicans, including top GOP leaders, have called for her removal from the panel. 

“We have got to show her that there is a pathway for her to do the right thing, and we have to be vigilant towards that. Believe me, she understands that that’s a possibility, and nobody is taking that off the table, but we are not there yet,” Rose said at the town hall on Tuesday.

Omar made the comments during a forum in Washington last month, arguing that critics were making bad-faith accusations of anti-Semitism in response to her questioning U.S.-Israel policy.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said. “I want to ask, why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the [National Rifle Association], of fossil-fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy?”

House Democratic leaders responded by holding a vote on a resolution that broadly condemned hate, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. An initial version of the resolution focused on addressing only anti-Semitism.

Rose was also among the first Democrats to condemn Omar for suggesting last month that U.S. lawmakers defending Israel are motivated by money. He issued a statement calling Omar’s remarks “deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself.” 

Omar later apologized for those remarks. She also issued a tweet thanking Rose for stopping by her office, writing that “I appreciated your call to do better as a friend and ally and appreciate your courage in calling out the double standard in Congress.”  

Rose’s apology to his constituents this week shows that tensions among Democrats remain nearly two weeks after the House overwhelmingly passed the resolution condemning hate.

Like Omar, Rose is a member of the freshman Democratic class. But he represents a Staten Island district that had long been held by Republicans until the 2018 midterm elections. Rose is expected to be a top GOP target in 2020. 

Rose said he would “work as hard as I can to make sure that these comments are not made again.”

“I am not satisfied with what I’ve seen thus far. I’m not,” Rose said. “To equate Jewish organizations with the NRA, of course I’m upset. Of course I’m not satisfied, and I don’t know any who are either. That’s why the first thing that I said is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry because I couldn’t protect you from this. And that takes a lot to say.”