“Anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “And I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Omar apologized on Monday for comments the previous day suggesting that U.S. support for the Jewish state is the result of money flowing from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential pro-Israel lobbying group. In her apology she said her “intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.”
The president said Omar’s comments are “deep seated in her heart” and called her apology “lame.”
Trump’s decision to weigh in comes at a time when Democrats are grappling with competing views on Israel within their party. Those divisions were recently highlighted by comments from Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — the first Muslim women elected to Congress — who have both criticized the U.S.-Israel relationship.
But the president’s comments also shined a light on his past responses to religious and racial controversies that were criticized as insensitive, drawing accusations of hypocrisy from Democrats.
Omar’s comments were quickly condemned by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders, who said on Monday the freshman lawmaker used “anti-Semitic tropes” that are “deeply offensive.”
Republicans called on Democrats to strip Omar of her seat on the Foreign Affairs panel. After she apologized, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told Roll Call that she would not lose her assignment.
The Minnesota Democrat prompted swift criticism from members on both sides of the aisle when she retweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald’s response to a story about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) promising “action” against Tlaib and herself over their alleged anti-Semitism.
She captioned that retweet with the message, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” referring to money.
When asked on Twitter who she “thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel,” Omar replied “AIPAC!”
AIPAC is a Washington group that promotes close ties between the U.S. and Israel. It does not donate directly to political candidates, but many of its members do.
Republican lawmakers have seized on Omar’s tweets, with McCarthy and others urging Democrats to marginalize the freshman lawmaker.
Conservatives have touted GOP leaders’ decision last month to strip Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee assignments after he questioned why the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” are offensive, contrasting it to Democrats’ response to Omar.
But some Democrats have called Republicans’ punishment for King too little too late, arguing that the Iowa lawmaker has made inflammatory comments about Hispanic immigrants for years.
When Trump was asked last month about King’s comments, he said he had not been following the story.
Trump also faced condemnation from Jewish groups and civil-rights organizations in 2017 over his assertion that there were good people on “both sides” of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a counter-protester was killed by one of the rally attendees.
The president did not apologize for those comments.
“Unlike this President, Rep. @IlhanMN demonstrated a capacity to acknowledge pain & apologize, use the opportunity to learn abt history of antisemitism,+grow from it while clarifying her stance,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Omar’s fellow freshman, tweeted on Tuesday.
Trump’s past remarks have not stopped him from being critical of Omar.
“I think she should be ashamed of herself,” Trump told reporters on Monday aboard Air Force One.
Asked what an appropriate response would be for Omar, he said, “She knows what to say.”
Omar, a Somali-born refugee who resettled in the U.S. in the mid-1990s, has long faced charges of anti-Semitism.
“Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” she tweeted in 2012, before she was a member of Congress.
She recently apologized for that tweet.
In a recent Yahoo News interview, Omar said the notion that Israel is a democracy makes her “almost chuckle.”
“When I see Israel institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle,” she said. “If … we see that in any other society, we would criticize it.”
She likened Israel’s government to Islamic theocracies in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“We would call it out,” Omar added. “We do that to Iran, to any other place that sort of upholds its religion. And I see that now in Saudi Arabia and so I am aggravated truly in those contradictions.”