Rep. Lauren Boebert Faces Backlash for 'Islamophobic and Racist' Story About Rep. Ilhan Omar
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert's recent anti-Muslim comments about a fellow member of Congress have been strongly criticized by Democratic House leaders as well as members of her own party. The controversial Republican said Monday, however, she wouldn't be issuing a public apology.
Following a fiery speech in which she called Rep. Ilhan Omar — who is Muslim and a refugee from Somalia — a member of the "Jihad Squad," a video posted to Twitter on Thursday showed Boebert telling a story about an encounter with Omar that allegedly happened while she was in an elevator with a staffer at the U.S. Capitol.
"I see a Capitol police officer running to the elevator. I see fret all over his face, and he's reaching, and the door's shutting, like I can't open it, like what's happening," Boebert, 34, said in the video which was reportedly recorded during an event in her Colorado district. "I look to my left, and there she is. Ilhan Omar. And I said, 'Well, she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine.' "
"So we only had one floor to go and I say, do I say it or do I not?" Boebert told a laughing crowd. "And I look over and I say, 'Look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.' Don't worry, it's just her staffers on Twitter that talk for her. She's not tough in person."
A progressive Democrat who is part of "The Squad" of six left-wing House members, 39-year-old Omar responded to the viral video last Thursday, saying the incident never took place.
"Fact, this buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol, this whole story is made up," Omar tweeted. "Sad she thinks bigotry gets her clout. Anti-Muslim bigotry isn't funny & shouldn't be normalized. Congress can't be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation."
According to Omar, Boebert made a phone call to discuss the matter on Monday. "I graciously accepted a call from Rep. Lauren Boebert in the hope of receiving a direct apology for falsely claiming she met me in an elevator, suggesting I was a terrorist, and for a history of anti-Muslim hate," Omar said in a statement. "Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments. She instead doubled down on her rhetoric and I decided to end the unproductive call."
On her own social media accounts, Boebert acknowledged she had connected with Omar on the phone, but the conversation unraveled when she told the Democrat she would not be publicly apologizing.
"She kept asking for a public apology," Boebert said in a video shared after the phone call Monday. "So I told Ilhan Omar that she should make a public apology to the American people for her anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-police rhetoric ... and then, Rep. Omar hung up on me."
Democrat leaders have condemned Boebert for "recent Islamophobic and racist comments, as well as a fictionalized incident, from Congresswoman Lauren Boebert."
"Congresswoman Boebert's repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions against another Member of Congress, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, are both deeply offensive and concerning," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and others said in a joint statement on Friday. "This language and behavior are far beneath the standard of integrity, dignity and decency with which the Constitution and our constituents require that we act in the House. We call upon Congresswoman Boebert to fully retract these comments and refrain from making similar ones going forward."
The Democrats also criticized Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for a "failure to condemn inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric from members of their conference," asking their counterparts to "address this priority with the Congresswoman and to finally take real action to confront racism."
On Friday, Boebert tweeted an apology to anyone who was offended by her comment, and said she planned to call Omar.
"I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar. I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction," she wrote.
In a follow-up tweet on Friday, Omar wrote, "Saying I am a suicide bomber is no laughing matter. @GOPLeader and @SpeakerPelosi need to take appropriate action, normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."
During a Sunday appearance on CNN's State of the Union, Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said McCarthy should condemn Boebert's comments.
"It has to be called out. It has to be dealt with, particularly whenever it is breaching the civility, whenever it is crossing the line in terms of violence or increasing the divide in our country," Hutchinson said. "One of the things that's really important to us in the future is increasing the civil debate and civil discourse. And we have got to look for ways that we can bring people together and not divide and certainly along racial lines."
McCarthy also spoke with CNN about Boebert but stopped short of condemning her comments.
"She has apologized for what she said and has reached out to Congresswoman Omar to meet next week," McCarthy said in a statement. "I spoke with Leader Hoyer today to help facilitate that meeting so that Congress can get back to talking to each other and working on the challenges facing the American people."
In her statement about the phone call that ended badly, Omar said she believes in "engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate."
She also called out Republican leaders in Congress for not going further in addressing Boebert's behavior.
"To date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to condemn and hold their own members accountable for repeated instances of anti-Muslim hate and harassment," she said. "This is not about one hateful statement or one politician; it is about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred. It is time for Republican Leader McCarthy to actually hold his party accountable.