With a rare joint statement, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: US to donate 500 million Pfizer doses to other countries: reports | GOP’s attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message | Federal appeals court blocks Missouri abortion ban Meet the most powerful woman in Washington not named Pelosi or Harris The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden detours on infrastructure ahead of June vote MORE (D-Calif.) and her entire leadership team on Thursday sought to quell a growing controversy over Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHouse candidate in Chicago says gun violence prompted her to run Antisemitism isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a crisis both parties must fight together Omar reintroduces bill to repeal law used to justify Trump’s Muslim ban, Japanese Americans’ internment MORE’s (D-Minn.) remarks equating war crimes committed by the U.S. and Israel to those by the Taliban and Hamas terrorist groups.
The joint statement by Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer recovering from knee replacement surgery Democrats worry Jan. 6 probe could divert their agenda Omar says Facebook refusing to take down ‘hate speech’ ad MORE (D-Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Assistant Speaker Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkDemocratic scramble complicates Biden’s human infrastructure plan Child care advocates seek to lock down billion in new federal funding Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief MORE (D-Mass.), Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show Sunday shows – Infrastructure, Jan. 6 commission dominate Jeffries: Republicans ‘want to make it harder to vote and easier to steal an election’ MORE (D-N.Y.) and Vice Caucus Chairman Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarMask rules spark confusion, tensions in Congress Capitol Police watchdog calls for boosting countersurveillance TSA chief cites ‘substantial increase’ in firearms at airports MORE (D-Calif.) came after Omar responded to a request from a dozen Jewish House Democrats to “clarify” what she meant in her original remarks.
“Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate. And indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies,” the Democratic leadership team said in its statement.
“But drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all,” the statement adds.
In her clarification, Omar, a progressive Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, explained that her original comments had focused on ongoing International Criminal Court probes — “not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”
“I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems,” said Omar, a Somali refugee.
That clarification appeared to satisfy Pelosi and her team, who said in their Thursday statement: “We welcome the clarification by Congresswoman Omar that there is no moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas and the Taliban.”
Omar’s original comments, made Monday as she questioned Secretary of State Anthony Blinken during a House hearing, were quickly becoming a major political headache for Democrats. Conservative media outlets ripped Omar’s remarks, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWisconsin state lawmaker compares museum mask policy to Nazi Party Harris hears criticism from all sides amid difficult first trip Cheney compares Trump claims to Chinese Communist Party: ‘It’s very dangerous’ MORE (R-Calif.) and the House GOP campaign arm called on Pelosi to punish Omar.
Late Wednesday, Omar took friendly fire as a dozen Jewish House Democrats, led by Rep. Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderThe Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment’s lack of power GOP leaders face new calls to boot Greene Democratic leaders discussed restraining order for Ocasio-Cortez against Greene: report MORE (D-Ill.), issued a joint statement calling on Omar to clarify her remarks and objecting to any comparison of the U.S. and Israel and the Taliban and Hamas.
At first, Omar was defiant, accusing her Democratic colleagues of engaging in “islamophobic tropes” and trying to harass and silence her. Omar allies said these Democrats had put her safety at risk.
It’s shameful for colleagues who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for “clarification” and not just call.
The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable. https://t.co/37dy2UduW0
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 10, 2021
But hours later, Omar backed down, issuing a more nuanced statement that explained that she was speaking about specific human rights investigations rather than making a “moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”