In two television appearances on Sunday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders strongly defended President Trump over athat spliced remarks by Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar about September 11 and news coverage of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
“Why is she brushing this off dismissively? She continues to make anti-Semitic comments over and over again and Democrats refuse to call her for it,” Sanders said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If she continues to do it, the president will continue to call her out — call her out by name. And he’s not going to be ashamed, nor should he be.”
“That was one of the most horrific moments in American history. And for her to talk about it in such a dismissive way, is frankly disgusting and abhorrent,” she added. “And I’m glad the president is calling her out and holding her accountable.”
The president faced a flurry of criticism from Democrats for posting a graphic video on Twitter on Friday showing the Pentagon and the two towers of the World Trade Center burning after airliners crashed into the buildings. The video included a clip of Omar referring to the attacks during a speech at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet in late March.
In her speech, Omar, a progressive Democrat born in Somalia and one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress, said CAIR was formed to protect the civil rights of Muslim Americans in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. “Far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen, and frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” Omar said at the event. “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
The part of the quote “some people did something” resurfaced last week, particularly among conservatives and right-wing media outlets. Texas Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw tweeted a 19-second clip of her comments, calling them “unbelievable.” The conservative New York Post published a cover showcasing the “some people did something” quote and a photo of the Twin Towers ablaze. Discussing Omar’s comments, “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade said, “you have to wonder if she is an American first.”
Although some Democrats criticized her comments or refused to defend them, most Congressional Democrats and the party’s 2020 presidential hopefuls also denounced Mr. Trump’s tweet, accusing the president of inciting violence against Omar. Some of her closest allies, like fellow progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, said the president and conservative media were unfairly targeting Omar because she is a woman of color and a practicing Muslim.
Earlier this month, a New York man was charged by criminal complaint for threatening to murder Omar in a phone call to her congressional office.
During her other television appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Sanders denied the president was inciting violence against Omar. “The president is wishing no ill will and certainly not violence towards anyone,” she said.
Omar has found herself at the center of controversy since she was elected last November. Earlier this year, she apologized for comments she made about Israel and Israeli lobbyists which were considered by some, including Democrats, to be anti-Semitic. In a “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” appearance last week, she said she was still “learning” about the weight of some comments.
“As I’ve said to my constituents and my colleagues, when you tell me that you are pained by something I say, I will always listen and I will acknowledge your pain,” Omar said.
Caroline Linton contributed to this report.