During a campaign event on Tuesday, presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke came to the defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who’s been receiving death threats as President Donald Trump attacks her in press conferences and on Twitter.
O’Rourke, speaking at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, called Trump a “racist” who’s trying to incite Islamophobia in response to a question about the wholly misleading video the president shared on Twitter about Omar. The congresswoman says she’s been receiving threats ever since Trump tweeted the video, but the president continued the attacks on Tuesday, saying she’s “very very bad for our country.”
“He’s trying to incite hatred, Islamophobia and, I would argue, violence against her and other Muslims in this country,” O’Rourke said of Trump’s comments, according to Washington Post reporter Jenna Johnson.
He continued: “This is the test of all tests for us. It’s not just that he is partisan, it’s not just that he is divisive. He is hateful. He is racist. He has encouraged the worst tendencies amongst our fellow Americans ... Unless we can beat him in November of 2020, it will continue. Unless we offer a compelling, profoundly powerful alternative to hatred and division and fear and anger, it will continue.”
The comments come as Democrats ― especially presidential hopefuls ― face ongoing scrutiny from their colleagues and constituents over their handling of Trump’s repeated bad-faith attacks on Omar.
Omar ― one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress ― previously said people are threatening her life in the name of Trump and the video he posted, which features comments she made while speaking at an event last month for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“Since the President’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life ― many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video. I thank the Capitol Police, the FBI, the House Sergeant at Arms, and the Speaker of the House for their attention to these threats,” she said in a statement.
Trump, meanwhile, is no stranger to Islamophobic and racist statements and policies, including but not limited to banning people from several Muslim-majority countries from the U.S. He’s also referred to groups of people as “animals” before ― a comment O’Rourke seemed to reference during the event on Tuesday.
“Now, I might expect someone in the Third Reich to refer to another human being as an infestation, and pests and less than humans,” he said, according to CNN’s DJ Judd.