Ilhan Omar issues apology after condemnations over AIPAC money tweets

Minnesota Democrat says she didn’t mean to offend American Jews, thanks those teaching her ‘the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes’

In this photo from February 5, 2019, Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota arrives for US President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
In this photo from February 5, 2019, Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota arrives for US President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Representative Ilhan Omar apologized on Monday over tweets suggesting support for Israel in Congress was bought with Jewish money, following a cascade of criticism from lawmakers and Jewish groups.

“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,” Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, said in a statement.

“We have always to 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,” she added.

Omar had faced growing accusations of anti-Semitism after writing Sunday on Twitter that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s call for her and Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) to be admonished over their criticism of Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby,” a slang term for $100 bills.

Notes of support are posted on the name plate outside the office of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in the Longworth House Office Building on February 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

Asked to clarify who she believed is paying politicians to support Israel, Omar named AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby group.

Though an influential player on Capital Hill, AIPAC does not endorse candidates or contribute to their campaigns.

Omar on Monday stood by her criticism of the “problematic role of lobbyists in our politics,” lumping in AIPAC with the pro-gun National Rifle Association and oil companies.

“It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it,” she said.

The apology came shortly after Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, condemned Omar’s remarks as anti-Semitic and said they were “deeply offensive” to supporters of Israel.

“We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments,” they said in a joint statement.

The statement, which also touted the lawmakers’ support for Israel, did not say whether any further action against Omar would be taken.

Pelosi wrote on her Twitter account that she spoke with Omar earlier Monday and the two “agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms.”

Then Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, with then House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, right, speaks about the party’s legislative priorities during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, November 30, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The rebuke came after a pair of Jewish Democrats circulated a letter calling on Democratic leaders to take “swift action” against anti-Semitism, without mentioning Omar by name.

Calls for Democrat leaders to take action have multiplied since Omar’s comments Sunday.

McCarthy, whose comments triggered Omar’s tweet, accused Democrats of an “abdication of leadership” and issued a statement saying Republicans would push this week for the Democrat-controlled House to issue an official condemnation of anti-Semitism.

The controversy came after Omar’s recent apology for a tweet saying Israel had “hypnotized the world” during a 2012 military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Omar, a Somali-born refugee from Ethiopia, has emerged as a strident critic of Israel since joining Congress and is a vocal opponent of a pair of bills meant to counter the boycott movement against the Jewish state that critics have said violate freedom of speech rights.

Those bills, which recently passed the Senate as part of a larger legislative package, are not expected to make it out of the House.

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