Rep. Ilhan Omar said on Sunday that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is a “liar and a coward” for defending Rep. Lauren Boebert after the Colorado Republican made bigoted comments about her.
The Minnesota Democrat has faced repeated anti-Muslim attacks from Boebert, who last month made a joke to a crowd insinuating that the Muslim lawmaker was a suicide bomber and called her part of the “jihad squad.” In September, the freshman lawmaker suggested at another event that Omar was a terrorist.
“It’s shocking and unacceptable. And it’s very unbecoming of a congresswoman to use that kind of derogatory, dangerous, inciting language against a colleague,” Omar said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And to see this happen right now in the halls of Congress really is damaging, not just to the Muslim community, to myself, but to the kind of country we want to be.”
Tensions boiled over last week, when Omar accepted a call from Boebert expecting an apology. Instead, Boebert refused to apologize and called for the Minnesota lawmaker to apologize for what the Republican called “anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-police rhetoric.” Omar said she hung up.
Dozens of House Democrats have demanded House leadership strip Boebert of her committee assignments, after most Republican lawmakers refused to hold the Colorado congresswoman accountable for her comments. Last week, McCarthy refused to condemn Boebert, instead deflecting to an attack on Democrats.
“Let me be very clear. This party is for anyone and everyone who craves freedom and supports religious liberty,” the House minority leader told reporters on Friday. “Lauren Boebert … apologized publicly, she apologized personally.” He then pointed to a lack of rebuke after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called him the leader of the “KKK caucus” last week.
“McCarthy is a liar and a coward. He doesn’t have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member of his conference,” Omar told CNN’s Jake Tapper. When asked why, Omar said: “Because this is who they are. And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact that their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry.”
A few Republicans ― Reps. Nancy Mace (S.C.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), as well as Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson ― have denounced Boebert’s hateful rhetoric, though at the cost of backlash from fellow party members. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), another far-right freshman, referred to Mace as “trash” and a “RINO,” which stands for “Republican in name only.”
“They are being attacked for condemning it, which tells you that their conference condones this,” Omar said. “And that’s why it’s dangerous, because people across the world, not just in the United States, are seeing this. And they are worried.”
“As you know, Islamophobia is on the rise,” she continued. “And as many people have reached out to me about my safety, I remind them that this isn’t about me. This is about all of the young girls across this country who wear the hijab so proudly who are afraid for their lives.”
Omar said she’s “very confident” that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will take “decisive action” this week against Boebert for her comments. The lawmaker reiterated that she’s received mounting death threats in response to anti-Muslim rhetoric from the Republican Party, and most recently from Boebert, that affects not just her life but the lives of others as well.
“I think the most dangerous thing that [Boebert] has recently said is that we have a problem in Congress because there’s a terrorist. And I think, once you sort of invoke that kind of language, you put not just my life, but the lives of my colleagues as well, in danger, because we don’t know who’s out there,” she said. “The people who are leaving these voicemails that are saying, ‘We are taking up arms, coming to the Capitol to protect our country from a terrorist,’ are not people that we should dismiss. They’re not joking.”
She added: “And I think it’s important for us to say, this kind of language, this kind of hate cannot be condoned by the House of Representatives. And we should punish and sanction Boebert by stripping her of her committees, by rebuking her language, by doing everything that we can to send a clear and decisive message to the American public that, if the Republicans are not going to be adults and condemn this, that we are going to do that.”