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

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersConfused by polls? Watch early primary states — not national numbers Confused by polls? Watch early primary states — not national numbers Biden leads in early voting states, followed by Warren, Sanders: poll MORE (I-Vt.) late Monday defended Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar blasts Trump's comment about accepting foreign campaign dirt as 'un-American' Omar blasts Trump's comment about accepting foreign campaign dirt as 'un-American' Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data 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.”

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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 John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment 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 PelosiOcasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown 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.