Rep. Ilhan Omar, the freshman lawmaker who has been under attack by President Trump based on a speech she made last month about Islamophobia in the wake of Sept. 11, said in a statement Sunday night that she has faced a number of death threats after Trump tweeted a video vilifying her.
“Since the President’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life―many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video,” she said in the statement. “I thank the Capitol Police, the FBI, the House Sergeant at Arms, and the Speaker of the House for their attention to these threats.”
The video Trump tweeted cited a speech Omar made to the Council on American Islamic Relations on March 23. “For far too long, we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” Omar said in the speech. “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
On April 9, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (who at one point was an administrator for a Facebook group that called Islam a “cancer”) tweeted out a clip of her comments condemning her description of the terror attacks as “some people who did something.” The next day, Fox & Friends played that line from the speech, and host Brian Kilmeade wondered aloud if “she’s an American first.” The day after that, the New York Post published a photo from the attacks on its cover, causing a coalition of Yemeni-American bodega owners to announce a boycott of the Post, accusing the tabloid of taking Omar’s words out of context in an effort to “provoke hatred and fear.”
And on Friday, Trump tweeted out the offensive video, which spliced images of the burning Twin Towers with Omar’s comments. “We will never forget!” Trump wrote in the tweet.
Many Democrats immediately responded with outrage and accused the president of attempting to foment hate and bigotry among his supporters through attacks on the first congresswoman to wear a hijab in office. Others pointed out the irony of the attacks from a president not known for his empathetic behavior in response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks: Trump himself went on a radio show on the day of the attacks and bragged that he now had the tallest building in downtown Manhattan. He also continued to use the tragedy to support Islamophobic conspiracy theories. During his campaign, he falsely claimed he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City cheering and celebrating as the World Trade Center collapsed in the attack—a lie he stood by repeatedly.
On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had spoken with officers in charge of security on Capitol Hill to ensure Omar’s safety. “They will continue to monitor and address the threats she faces,” Pelosi said in a statement. She also called for Trump to remove the tweet. “The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger,” she said.
Earlier in the month, a 55-year-old New York man was charged with threatening to kill Omar by “put[ting] a bullet in her…skull.”
In response to the criticism, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Sunday defended Trump’s tweet by attempting to redirect the conversation to another conservative attack on Omar: her supposedly anti-Semitic comments. “Certainly the President is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone,” Sanders said on ABC’s This Week. “But the President is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her not only one time but history of anti-Semitic comments.”
While the president himself didn’t fully address the pushback, he did attack Pelosi for defending Omar:
Omar, who in her statement Sunday night also charged that the president’s rhetoric encouraged hateful white nationalists and other right-wing extremists and led to an increase in hate crimes, defended herself on Twitter after Trump’s attack and reiterated her reasons for running for office. “No one person—no matter how corrupt, inept, or vicious—can threaten my unwavering love for America,” she wrote on Twitter. “I stand undeterred to continue fighting for equal opportunity in our pursuit of happiness for all Americans.”