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Pelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement

With a rare joint statement, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Senate investigation of insurrection falls short Ocasio-Cortez: 'Old way of politics' influences Manchin's thinking MORE (D-Calif.) and her entire leadership team on Thursday sought to quell a growing controversy over Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarThe Memo: Democratic tensions will only get worse as left loses patience Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Pelosi signals no further action against Omar MORE’s (D-Minn.) remarks equating war crimes committed by the U.S. and Israel to those by the Taliban and Hamas terrorist groups. 

The joint statement by Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi signals no further action against Omar Overnight Energy: EPA to reconsider Trump decision not to tighten soot standards | Interior proposes withdrawal of Trump rule that would allow drillers to pay less | EPA reverses Trump guidance it said weakened 'forever chemicals' regulations Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias MORE (D-Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Assistant Speaker Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkPelosi signals no further action against Omar Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias Pelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement MORE (D-Mass.), Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesPelosi signals no further action against Omar House unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Wray grilled on FBI's handling of Jan. 6 MORE (D-N.Y.) and Vice Caucus Chairman Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarPelosi signals no further action against Omar Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias Pelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement MORE (D-Calif.) came after Omar responded to a request from a dozen Jewish House Democrats to “clarify” what she meant in her original remarks.

“Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate. And indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies,” the Democratic leadership team said in its statement.

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“But drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all," the statement adds.

In her clarification, Omar, a progressive Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, explained that her original comments had focused on ongoing International Criminal Court probes — “not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel." 

"I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems,” said Omar, a Somali refugee. 

That clarification appeared to satisfy Pelosi and her team, who said in their Thursday statement: “We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban.” 

Omar’s original comments, made Monday as she questioned Secretary of State Anthony Blinken during a House hearing, were quickly becoming a major political headache for Democrats. Conservative media outlets ripped Omar’s remarks, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement Omar: I wasn't equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries Schumer bemoans number of Republicans who believe Trump will be reinstated: 'A glaring warning' MORE (R-Calif.) and the House GOP campaign arm called on Pelosi to punish Omar. 

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Late Wednesday, Omar took friendly fire as a dozen Jewish House Democrats, led by Rep. Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderPelosi signals no further action against Omar The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain Progressives rally behind Omar while accusing her critics of bias MORE (D-Ill.), issued a joint statement calling on Omar to clarify her remarks and objecting to any comparison of the U.S. and Israel and the Taliban and Hamas. 

At first, Omar was defiant, accusing her Democratic colleagues of engaging in “islamophobic tropes” and trying to harass and silence her. Omar allies said these Democrats had put her safety at risk. 

 

But hours later, Omar backed down, issuing a more nuanced statement that explained that she was speaking about specific human rights investigations rather than making a “moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”