House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came under fire on Monday for her response to freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic tweets over the weekend, with some contending the leader did not take firm enough action, while others argued she did too much.
In a tweet on Sunday, Omar indicated that the reason Israel enjoys such support in Congress is because lawmakers are being paid off by Jewish interests.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” the freshman congresswoman from Minnesota tweeted in response to a post by columnist Glenn Greenwald in which he wrote, “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”
It's all about the Benjamins baby 🎶 https://t.co/KatcXJnZLV
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 10, 2019
Omar was apparently referencing rapper Puff Daddy’s 1997 single “It’s All About the Benjamins.” Benjamin Franklin’s face appears on the front of $100 bills.
In his Op-Ed included in the tweet, Greenwald criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to take action against both Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for their anti-Semitic comments and support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
In a subsequent tweet, Omar identified the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, as the source of the funds going to lawmakers.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
Pelosi spoke with Omar on Monday andtweeted afterward: “Congresswoman Omar and I agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms.”
The speaker also released a joint statement with other House Democratic leaders condemning Omar’s sentiments.
“Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive,” they said. “We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”
“We are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests,” the leaders further stated. “Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share.”
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — a member of the GOP House leadership team — called for Omar to immediately be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in light of her clear anti-Semitic sentiments.
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who is Jewish, responded to Pelosi’s statement, tweeting, “Oh, I’m glad that your anti-Semitic House Foreign Affairs Committee member has decided to combat anti-Semitism in all of its forms. You know what one form would be? Resigning. Another form? You dumping her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Oh, I'm glad that your anti-Semitic House Foreign Affairs Committee member has decided to combat anti-Semitism in all of its forms. You know what one form would be? Resigning. Another form? You dumping her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. https://t.co/4PUGVORtX5
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 11, 2019
Others like GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas praised Pelosi’s response to Omar’s comments, tweeting, “Something I never thought I’d say: Bravo Nancy! Thank you for having the courage to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tweeted, “When they’re right, let’s thank them. Kudos to @SpeakerPelosi and @HouseDemocrats for calling out the reprehensible anti-Semitic remarks by @IlhanMN & I sincerely applaud Dem leadership for not excusing her bigoted and hateful comments toward @Israel.”
Many responded to Pelosi’s statement on Twitter.
“How can this person remain on the @HouseForeign Affairs Committee? @IlhanMN supports the BDS Movement which @SenSchumer said on the Senate floor is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. Anti-Semites who support BDS should not be on HFAC,” one tweeted.
Others chastised Pelosi for characterizing Omar’s tweets as anti-Semitic.
“All she said was that a powerful lobbying group had undo influence over politicians which is something progressives say all the time. Why does this change just because the lobbying group tries to co-opt Jewishness?” one wrote.
“How does one criticize Israeli gov policy towards Palestinians without being labelled anti-Semitic? This is a discussion America needs to have like yesterday,” another added.
Still another responded, “I’m a Jewish progressive and criticize the current Israeli government myself. That’s not the problem. The problem is doing that in an antisemitic way. There’s a difference.”
Omar yielded to the Pelosi’s call to apologize by releasing a statement on Monday afternoon in which she wrote, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
“My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” she continued. “We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Listening and learning, but standing strong 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry,” Omar concluded. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”
The Hill reported Omar came under fire last month when a 2012 tweet resurfaced in which she called for Allah to awaken people about the “evil doings of Israel.”
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 16, 2012
She tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel.”