House majority whip says he didn’t mean to diminish Holocaust in Omar defense
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House majority whip says he didn’t mean to diminish Holocaust in Omar defense

Jim Clyburn had suggested Omar had a ‘more personal’ relationship to suffering than descendants of Holocaust survivors because she is a refugee from war-torn Somalia

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

US House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn walked back a defense of Democratic colleague Ilhan Omar, saying he never meant to diminish the legacy of the Holocaust.

Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League and some Democratic colleagues for suggesting that Omar, who has been fending off accusations of anti-Semitism, had a “more personal” relationship to suffering than the descendants of Holocaust survivors because she is a refugee from war-torn Somalia.

That prompted the ADL rebuke.

“The Holocaust was a singular tragedy resulting in the death of six million Jews,” the group said on Twitter. “It’s offensive to diminish the suffering of survivors and the continuing pain of Jews today.”

Rep. Eliot Engel from New York said he was “disappointed” and Republican Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s former governor, said Clyburn shouldn’t have made “one minority group’s pain more justified or personal than another’s.”

Clyburn released a statement Thursday clarifying his remarks.

“Every student of history, which I consider myself to be, recognizes the Holocaust as a unique atrocity which resulted in the deaths of six million Jews. It should never be minimized; I never have, and I never will,” he said.

Clyburn is the highest-ranking African-American member of Congress, whose job, according to McClatchy, “is to build consensus among a diverse group of members in a new Democratic majority.” With the party torn over how to react to allegations of anti-Semitism by Omar, his ability to earn trust among peers on all sides of the divide is seen as essential.

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