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Ilhan Omar remains defiant after being called out at AIPAC

Wednesday March 27, 2019
By Veronica Stracqualursi, Sunlen Serfaty and Ashley Killough

Washington (CNN)Freshman Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar responded defiantly Tuesday when asked about her controversial remarks on Israel, which were recently criticized at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference.

"It's been fascinating to see such a powerful conference be focused and so fearful of a freshman member of Congress," Omar told reporters on Capitol Hill. "I hope that they figure out a way to not allow me to have a permanent residency in their heads."

Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, has drawn controversy after she suggested money was behind politicians' support for Israel -- she later apologized -- and insinuated that pro-Israel groups were pushing "allegiance to a foreign country." The comments were criticized on both sides of the aisle and prompted the Democratic-led House to pass a resolution earlier this month condemning hate and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination.

In a rebuke of Omar's comments, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the AIPAC audience via video on Tuesday, "it's not about the Benjamins" and that the "reason the people of America support Israel is not because they want our money, it's because they share our values."

"This from a man facing indictments for bribery and other crimes in three separate public corruption affairs," Omar wrote on Twitter in response, referring to the investigations Netanyahu is embroiled with back home.

In a series of tweets, Omar also claimed the Israeli leader focused too much of his speech on her, rather than devoting more time to the shooting last year at a Pittsburgh synagogue and other hate crimes.

On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence reprimanded Omar at the conference, saying she "trafficked and repeated anti-Semitic tropes, alleged congressional support for Israel reflected an allegiance to a foreign country," and adding, "anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States of America."

Also speaking at the pro-Israel conference on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, appeared to reference Omar, though not by name, following a reference to a 2018 tweet sent by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also not referred to by name.
"When someone names only prominent Jews as trying to 'buy' or 'steal' our elections, we must call it out," Schumer said. an apparent reference to a now-deleted tweet McCarthy sent that disparaged several prominent Jewish Democratic donors. Schumer continued, "When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you're not loyal to America, we must call it out."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, also criticized Omar at the conference, as did the No. 2 Democrat in the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who took a veiled shot at his House colleague.
"When someone accuses American supporters of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me," Hoyer said at AIPAC on Sunday.

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

CORRECTION: The story has been updated to reflect that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer referenced in his AIPAC speech both Rep. Ilhan Omar and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.


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