Rep. Ilhan Omar Says She's Being Used as a Political Football Because She's a Black Female Muslim Refugee

By Melanie Arter | April 12, 2019 | 11:04am EDT
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

( – In an interview Wednesday night on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) claimed that she’s been singled out for her anti-Semitic comments because she’s a Muslim immigrant and a woman.

Colbert asked her to explain why she’s become “a lightning rod for people.”


“Yeah, I mean if you think about you know historically where our nation is at right now, there are many members of our community that their identities are a lightning rod, right? They’ve become—they’re being used as political football. We are talking about immigrants. We’re talking about refugees, women of color, people of color, minorities,” she said.

Omar said that Muslims specifically are being used as political footballs, “and I just happen to embody all of those identities and so it’s easy for this to kind of be self-explanatory.”



“Well, you were criticized for saying some things that some people on the right, specifically, but also some Democrats saw as being possibly anti-Semitic. You got some support from some people. I think Glenn Greenwald might have tweeted in support of you, and you tweeted back to him that the attacks on you are ‘all about the Benjamins,’ meaning AIPAC and a lobbyist from the state of Israel,” Colbert said.

“By saying that you were accused of anti-Semitism again. What was it—you then apologized at the insistence of Nancy Pelosi – so it’s not just Republicans who had problems with what you had said or done. It was also some Democrats. What was that process like? What was that like to be a cudgel like that, being used as a political cudgel right when you began your service?” he asked.

Omar said “the whole process” has been “one of growth” for her. She recalled a conversation she had with former Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who is currently the attorney general of Minnesota, and they were talking about things that are “historically offensive to African-Americans.”

“He was going through a list, and I said, ‘I mean, I wouldn’t be offended by those things,’ and he said, well, you’re an African immigrant. None of those things hold history for you, and so oftentimes when you are speaking, you might not understand the historical context of some of the words that you might use and the kind of pain that it might incite for people, and so in this process, I’m learning that everything is not as simple as we might think we might want to state it,” she said.

“And as I have said to my constituents, to my colleagues, when you tell me that you are pained by something that I say, I will always listen, and I will acknowledge your pain. It’s the same that I expect, so when you have people on Fox News that question whether I am actually American or I put America first, I expect my colleagues to also say, that’s not okay. They should … call that out,” Omar added.

“Or when people call me a terrorist, or when people say you know that because I’m a Muslim, I’m an immigrant, I’m a refugee, that I can’t have any loyalty to our country. I took an oath. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. I am as American as everyone else is, and this kind of double standard really is quite offensive and is very much imbedded in a lot of our culture where you will have people get—come after minorities for things that they say, they might have insinuated. But no one goes after people like the folks on Fox & Friends that actually say those words. It’s not about insinuation, right? They actually said that I might not be an American, my loyalties might not be to this country, but I get called out. They don’t. They get to keep their show,” Omar said.

Colbert admitted that he has called White House adviser Stephen Miller a “white supremacist” on the show and didn’t get the same kind of rebuke.

“I would say that goes as far as me too. When I heard that you had been, you had said that you believe that Stephen Miller is a white nationalist, and you got a lot of heat for that. I thought, haven’t I said that? Haven’t I actually--- don’t we make jokes about that all the time on this show?” Colbert said.

“But it’s unfair because you get attacked, A) because of some of the history you already have in terms of being a cudgel in the area of anti-Semitism, people—accusations regardless of your apology but also I think because you’re a Muslim, because you’re a woman, because you’re a person of color, you’re given less latitude than somebody like me,” he said.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) called Miller a white supremacist last year, Omar said, but “no one has batted an eye, and you see this outrage when I speak the truth. Everyone else’s truth is allowed, but my truth can never be.”

Colbert said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked Omar to apologize.

“She asked you to apologize. She and other members of both the Republican and Democratic Party have said to new members – you, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a lot of new, outspoken quite noted new members of Congress to basically slow down, don’t do too much, back bench it, see how everything works, find out where the bathrooms are, and you know where the copy machine is before you start making waves. What do you say to those people, who say, go slow?” he asked.

Omar responded, saying, “I think Nancy knows this very well. Women have been told to go slow and not be seen and not be heard for many years, and she wouldn’t have made it to where she is if did, and it’s certainly the case for minority women and the three of us are minorities and people of color. We are not there to be quiet. We are not there to be invisible. We are there to follow the lead of people like Congressman John Lewis and make good trouble.”


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