Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar publicly shared a violent and threatening voicemail from an unnamed person that she received after Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert’s anti-Muslim remarks about the Minnesota Democrat.
The message, which her office received Monday, illustrated the pattern of Islamophobia Omar faces as one of only three Muslim members of Congress.
Omar said Tuesday that she has “reported hundreds of threats on my life often triggered by Republican attacks on my faith,” and added that she’s seen an increase this week. The voicemail included anti-Muslim attacks, called Omar a racial slur and a traitor and said she “will not live much longer.”
“Condemning this should not be a partisan issue,” Omar told reporters. “This is about our basic humanity and fundamental rights of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution. Yet while some members of the Republican Party have condemned this, to date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to hold their members accountable. It is time for the Republican Party to actually do something to confront anti-Muslim hatred in its ranks and hold those who perpetuate it accountable.”
Spokespeople for Boebert and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy did not immediately respond to the Star Tribune’s requests for comment.
The Associated Press reported that McCarthy was asked Tuesday what he would do if Democrats tried to censure Boebert. McCarthy said: “After she apologized personally and publicly? I’d vote against it.”
Outcry toward Boebert, a conservative freshman lawmaker from Colorado, grew last week after a viral video showed her telling an audience that she had just gotten on an elevator when a Capitol Police officer hurried her way.
“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,” Boebert told the audience, some of whom applauded. Boebert added, “and I said, ‘Oh look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.”
Omar said the elevator encounter never happened, and Boebert tweeted on Friday “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.”
House Democratic leaders condemned the remarks in a statement Friday, and called on Boebert “to fully retract these comments and refrain from making similar ones going forward.”
The situation appeared to grow more tense after Omar and Boebert spoke by phone on Monday. Omar said afterwards she was hoping for a direct apology, while Boebert said in a video about the call that she “told Ilhan Omar that she should make a public apology to the American people for her anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-police rhetoric.”
Omar, now in her second term, has also been the subject of controversy for comments of her own that have attracted criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in the past.
CNN reported Tuesday that Boebert also made anti-Muslim comments at a September event in New York. In the video that was posted on Facebook, Boebert can be heard calling Omar and Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib “black-hearted evil women.” Later in the video, Boebert tells a similar elevator story about Omar including the backpack reference.
“When a sitting member of Congress calls a colleague ‘member of the jihad squad,’ and falsifies a story to suggest that I will blow up the Capitol, it is not just attack on me, but on millions of American Muslims across this country,” Omar said on Tuesday.
Omar was joined at Tuesday’s press conference by Tlaib and Democratic Rep. André Carson of Indiana, the other Muslim members of Congress. Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman was also there.
“We are committed to ensuring a real consequence for dangerous statements that fuel bigotry, and incite violence, especially when it’s coming from one of our own colleagues,” Carson said.
But what action the Democratic-controlled House might take remains an open question.
“This kind of hateful rhetoric and actions cannot go without punishment,” Omar said. “There has to be accountability.”