Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) used an interview with Trevor Noah on the Daily Show Thursday to liken the defensiveness she felt at being called anti-Semitic to what she claimed people might feel when they are accused of exhibiting “white privilege.”
“You are someone who has been very outspoken, you’ve always spoken your mind and spoken directly to people, voters, your colleagues, et cetera, and recently you’ve come under fire for a few of your previous comments,” Noah opened his discussion with his guest.
“Recently?” Omar responded with a laugh.
Noah was referring to a 2012 tweet from Omar, posted in reaction to an Israeli operation against Hamas, that read, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 16, 2012
Omar said later she was not aware of the “ugly sentiment” underlying the remark but she has neither apologized for it nor deleted it.
“In all sincerity, it was after my CNN interview that I heard from Jewish orgs. that my use of the word ‘Hypnotize’ and the ugly sentiment it holds was offensive,” she said in a Twitter thread.
Thursday night she went further by way of exposition to Trevor Noah, likening her initial defensiveness to the criticism she received for that Tweet to what people must feel when they are accused of displaying “white privilege.”
“With that tweet, what I finally realized is the realization that I hope that people come to when we’re having a conversation about white privilege,” Omar said. “People would be, like, ‘I grew up in a poor neighborhood, I can’t be privileged. Can you stop saying that? I haven’t benefited from my whiteness!’”
She said it’s about acknowledging a “systematic” problem in both cases, whether it’s white privilege or anti-Semitism. “That happened for me,” Omar said. “I was like, ‘Do not call me that, that’s not what I was doing.’ And I was like, oh, I see what you’re saying now. So I had to take a deep breath and understand where people were coming from and what point they were trying to make, which is what I expect people to do when I’m talking to them about things that impact me or offend me.”
“What is important in this conversation is that we separate the land, the people and administrations,” she continued. “When I talk about what we are doing wrong in this country, it’s not because I hate this country, it’s not because I don’t see myself as American. It’s because I love this country and because I am American and because I want it to do better.”
Omar has previously mocked the idea that Israel is a democracy, comparing it to Iran and saying it should not be accepted as a “Jewish state” — then doubling down; and justified writing a letter to a judge in 2016 asking for a lenient sentence for nine Somali-Americans who were convicted of trying to join the Islamic State terror organization.