Sanders defends Omar, but says she has to do 'better job' speaking to Jewish community

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war MORE (I-Vt.) late Monday defended Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarWarren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium Democrats look for Plan B after blow on immigration Democrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian  MORE (D-Minn.) against “outrageous, racist” attacks, but said the freshman lawmaker has to “do maybe a better job in speaking to the Jewish community.” 

“Hold it, hold it, hold it,” Sanders said at a Fox News town hall when moderator Bret Baier called him a “staunch supporter” of the embattled congresswoman, who has been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes. “I’ve talked to Ilhan about twice in my life. I respect her, but this is what I do support — I support a Muslim member of Congress not to be attacked every single day in outrageous, racist remarks.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Baier asked the 2020 presidential candidate, who would become the first Jewish president, if he understands why Jewish Americans might have a problem with some of Omar’s remarks on Israel.

“I do understand, but I think that is not quite right,” Sanders said. “I think that Ilhan has got to do maybe a better job in speaking to the Jewish community.”

Sanders noted that his Jewish family was “devastated” by Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust.

"I will do everything in my power, and I hope that every member of Congress will fight not only anti-Semitism, but racism and anti-Muslim activity so that we create a nondiscriminatory society," Sanders said. "But it is not anti-Semitic to be critical of a right-wing government in Israel. That is not anti-Semitic."

President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE has repeatedly criticized Omar for her comments about U.S.-Israeli ties and recently went after the first-term Democrat's remarks about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Trump on Friday tweeted a video showing images of the Twin Towers burning edited with a clip of Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, giving a speech last month. 

Omar said during that speech at the Council on American-Islamic Relations that CAIR was founded because "some people did something" and Muslims "were starting to lose access to our civil liberties."

Omar said in a statement on Sunday that she's faced a spike in death threats, including many directly referencing the video posted by Trump.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power MORE (D-Calif.) said Sunday that she has asked Capitol Police to monitor Omar’s safety amid Trump’s renewed attacks. A man was arrested earlier this month after allegedly threatening to murder the congresswoman.