Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar apologized Monday for a pair of tweets painting Jews as power-hungry and claimed it was never her intention to “offend” anyone.
The freshman congresswoman — who has faced flak since taking office over what critics call anti-Semitic remarks — issued the apology after the six most powerful Democrats in the House said she crossed a line by suggesting U.S. politicians are only taking pro-Israel positions because they’re paid off by special interest 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,” Omar said in a statement.
“My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always 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.”
But Omar, 37, wouldn’t unequivocally back off her original take.
“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry,” Omar continued, using acronyms for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the National Rifle Association. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”
Omar stoked outrage Sunday after posting two tweets blasting Republicans for threatening to reprimand her over her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which aims to put economic pressure on Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territories.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar tweeted in response to a news story reporting that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had pledged to take “action” against the Minnesota Democrat over her BDS backing.
Critics pointed to the anti-Semitic undertone of Omar using “Benjamins” as a phrase for money and also charged she was perpetuating a historically anti-Semitic trope by suggesting Jews seek to influence politics through money.
Amid mounting scrutiny, Omar followed up by responding to a Twitter user questioning who she claimed was “paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.”
“AIPAC!” she posted.
The powerful lobbying group spends about $3.5 million a year on promoting pro-Israel policies in Congress, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The organization does not contribute to congressional campaigns.
Prior to Omar’s apology, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark stressed they do not discount “legitimate criticism” of the Israeli government but said her tweets took it a step too far.
“Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive,” the Democratic brass said in a joint statement.
“We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments. As Democrats and as Americans, the entire Congress must be fully engaged in denouncing and rejecting all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice and discrimination wherever they are encountered.”