Ilhan Omar blasts Pete King as an 'Islamophobe' after he announces retirement: 'Good riddance'

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Minn.) on Monday denounced Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingRundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Democrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Treasury withheld nearly M from FDNY 9/11 health program MORE (R-N.Y.) as an "Islamophobe" after the longtime GOP lawmaker announced that he would not seek reelection in 2020. 

Omar, who earlier this year became one of the first Muslim women sworn into Congress, specifically called out controversial statements King made about the Muslim community and Eric Garner during his long tenure in Congress.

"Peter King is an Islamophobe who held McCarthyite hearings targeting American Muslims, said 'there are too many mosques in this country' and blamed Eric Garner for his own death at the hands of police," she said in a tweet. "Good riddance."

King dismissed Omar’s criticism, telling The Hill that “considering the source, it is a great compliment.” 

King, who became the 21st House Republican to announce his retirement ahead of the 2020 elections, said in a 2007 interview with Politico that there were “too many mosques in this country." 

“There are too many people sympathetic to radical Islam,” King, who once served as the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, said at the time. “We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them.”

He also suggested in 2014 that the death of Garner, an African American man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a New York police officer during an arrest, stemmed from his obesity. Video of the incident captured Garner saying, "I can't breathe" before dying, causing mass demonstrations throughout the U.S. against police brutality.


After a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer in Garner's death in December of that year, King praised the decision. 

"You had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible," King said on CNN. "If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this. ... The police had no reason to know he was in serious condition."

He also questioned whether Garner couldn't breathe, saying, "The fact of the matter is, if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk."

King, 75, has represented New York's 2nd Congressional District since 1993. He said in a statement early Monday that he would retire in order to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee lauded King as a "political institution" following his announcement. 

Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerProtect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift MORE (D-N.Y.) also praised King as a "principled" lawmaker who "stood head and shoulders above everyone else."

"He’s fiercely loved America, Long Island, and his Irish heritage and left a lasting mark on all 3," he said on Twitter. "I will miss him in Congress and value his friendship." 

Democrat Jackie Gordon, who is challenging King in New York's 2nd District, thanked the congressman for his "26 years of service." But she emphasized that the area was in "desperate need of new leadership."