US President Donald Trump said Monday that freshman Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar “should be ashamed of herself” over tweets suggesting that a powerful pro-Israel interest group pays members of Congress to support Israel.
The Minnesota congresswoman “unequivocally” apologized earlier Monday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats rebuked her. She said she had no intention of offending anyone and thanked her colleagues for educating her on anti-Semitic tropes.
On Air Force One flying to a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, Trump said that Omar had made “a terrible statement” and that he didn’t find her apology to be adequate. Asked what she should have said, Trump replied, “She knows what to say.”
Omar issued the apology 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.
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 US president is himself no stranger to accusations of using anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money.
In a 2015 speech in Washington to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump told the audience: “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”
He also said: “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”
Leveling corruption accusations against rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump in 2016 tweeted, then swiftly deleted, an image depicting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton next to a Star of David superimposed over piles of money.
A former employee wrote in a 1991 book that Trump once told him: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day,” The Guardian reported.
Last year Trump said he rejects white supremacism and anti-Semitism, but did not say how he would counter the phenomena and angrily rejected claims that his rhetoric spurs division.
Agencies contributed to this report.