House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Thursday that freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) still doesn’t understand why some people are so upset with her controversial remarks about Israel that many took as anti-Semitic.
“I don’t think that the congresswoman is perhaps appreciative of the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don’t believe it was intended in any anti-Semitic way,” Pelosi told reporters at a press conference.
Pelosi’s remarks come as Omar has continued to refuse to apologize for comment last week that pro-Israel advocates were pushing for “allegiance to a foreign country.” Those remarks were seen by many as anti-Semitic, playing into centuries-old tropes that Jews hold dual allegiances and aren’t reliable citizens. They came after an earlier Omar tweet that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” comments she later apologized for.
Omar’s latest remarks convinced Pelosi to put forward a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. But while that move was strongly supported by Jewish congressional leaders on Congress and most of House leadership, members from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus cried foul over the move. Omar, a black woman and one of only two Muslims in Congress, has faced death threats and attacks in recent weeks.
Tensions have continued to rise to the point where Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), three top 2020 presidential candidates, put out statements criticizing House Democrats for pushing the resolution.
Backed into a corner, House Democratic leaders agreed to temporarily table the resolution and broaden it out to add in condemnations of Islamophobia. They’re planning to vote on the new resolution Thursday afternoon.
That’s helped smooth things over with some black and progressive members — but has infuriated some Jewish members who see it as watering down its intent.
“It feels like we’re only able to call the use of anti-Semitic language by any colleague of ours if we’re addressing all forms of hatred and it feels like we can’t say it’s anti-Semitism unless everyone agrees that it’s anti-Semitism,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), who is Jewish, lamented on the House floor Thursday morning.
Pelosi said she didn’t think Omar held anti-Semitic views, but warned that she doesn’t understand the gravity of her remarks.
“I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-semitic attitude but that she did not have a full appreciation of how they landed with other people,” she said.