Omar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats
A group of House Democrats called on GOP leaders Tuesday to discipline Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) for a series of Islamophobic comments she’s lobbed in recent months against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and other Muslim lawmakers in Congress.
In an emotional press conference in the basement of the Capitol, Omar said she has received “hundreds” of threats on her life since joining Congress — threats “often triggered by Republican attacks on my faith.”
As evidence, Omar then took the remarkable step of playing a profane and racist voicemail she received on Monday, as her most recent feud with Boebert was gaining national attention, in which the caller characterized her as a “f—ing Muslim piece of shit” — one hellbent on “taking over our country.”
“Don’t worry,” the caller is heard saying, “There’s plenty that will love the opportunity to take you off the face of this f—ing Earth.”
Omar, amplifying the calls of most every Democrat in Congress, urged Republican leaders to condemn the bigotry coming from their conference in plain and forceful language.
“This kind of hateful rhetoric and actions cannot go without punishment. There has to be accountability,” Omar said. “If and when the Republican conference fails to do so, it is going to be our job to do that.”
Omar was joined at the podium by the only other Muslims currently in Congress — Reps. André Carson (D-Ind.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — as well as Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a liberal first-term lawmaker representing the Bronx. The Democrats warned that Boebert’s racially charged attacks not only defy the Constitution’s promise of religious freedom but also promote violence, particularly against minorities.
“I’m worried about the degradation of our values and of our psychology as a nation as our Republican colleagues continue to fan the flames of racial hate and conflict and where that is leading us in a post-Trump era,” Bowman said.
It’s unclear what happens next.
Behind House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), GOP leaders have been largely silent about the latest racially charged controversy surrounding a member of their conference. And Democratic leaders, who have already taken the remarkable step of stripping Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) of their committee assignments, are stepping carefully into the recent Boebert storm, hoping that GOP leaders will provide some form of unilateral sanction.
“The Republican Party seems to be muted by Donald Trump and by others on this kind of conduct,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday morning.
Still, Carson said he is in active talks with Democratic leaders to draft their own punitive resolution against Boebert if GOP leaders don’t take some public action on their own. He did not say what form of punishment the resolution would suggest.
“We are committed to ensuring a real consequence for dangerous statements that fuel bigotry and incite violence — especially when it is coming from one of our own colleagues,” Carson said.
The uproar surrounding Boebert began over the long Thanksgiving weekend after the release of a video showing the conservative firebrand addressing a crowd at a town hall-style event in her district. During her speech, Boebert told the story of getting into an elevator with an aide at the Capitol when a police officer raced toward the door, allegedly out of concern that Omar was also inside the cab.
Boebert said she calmed the officer by explaining that she and her staffer “should be fine” since Omar “doesn’t have a backpack.” The unsubtle suggestion was that Omar, because she is Muslim, poses the constant threat of terrorist violence.
Omar has denied that such an interaction ever took place, saying Boebert “falsified a story to suggest I want to blow up the Capitol.”
At a similar event in September, Boebert told the same story about riding in an elevator with a staffer and Omar. In that video, unearthed by CNN on Tuesday, Boebert does not mention a police officer but makes the same Islamophobic reference to “the jihad squad” and repeats the racist joke that she felt safe because Omar did not have a backpack.
“It is not just an attack on me but on millions of Muslim Americans across this country,” Omar said.
“Condemning this should not be a partisan issue,” she added. “It is time for the Republican Party to actually do something.”
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