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Hoyer says AIPAC remarks were ‘misinterpreted’

Stefani Reynolds

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Monday said a comment he made at a pro-Israel conference over the weekend, in which he appeared to call out several freshmen Democratic lawmakers, was “misinterpreted.” 

“Last night, I made a comment during my remarks that was, unfortunately, misinterpreted, and I want to make sure there is no ambiguity about what I said,” Hoyer said Monday afternoon.

He appeared to be referencing a comment he made on Sunday night at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, in which he chided the media for focusing on only a select group of lawmakers.

“There are 62 freshman Democrats — you hear me?” he said. “Sixty-two, not three.”

The comment appeared to be referencing Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

On Monday, he sought to clarify that remark: “In pointing out that much of the press attention has been on a few new Members in particular, I was lamenting that the media does not appear to be paying enough attention to other excellent new Members who are also bringing important new energy and diverse perspectives to our Caucus and to the Congress,” he said.

Hoyer also drew attention for another remark during his speech, in which he said he “stand[s] with Israel, proudly and unapologetically,” adding, “When someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me.”

The statement was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Omar, who said in February that she wanted “to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Detractors accused her of invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish people holding dual loyalty to Israel.

The controversy followed Omar’s earlier apology for a since-deleted tweet in which she said lawmakers’ support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” referring to money, and then later said AIPAC was behind the push for pro-Israel policies in Congress. Critics argued her comments were examples of anti-Semitic dogwhistles.

The criticism eventually led House lawmakers to vote on a resolution that had initially been crafted as a rebuke of anti-Semitism, but eventually transformed into a more general resolution condemning all forms of hate.

Omar’s fellow freshman Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) apologized to his constituents for Omar’s remarks earlier this month, while President Trump claimed her comments, and the decision by several Democratic presidential candidates to skip the AIPAC conference, indicated the party is “anti-Jewish.”

Updated: 5:35 p.m.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Donald Trump Ilhan Omar Max Rose Rashida Tlaib Steny Hoyer

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