Senator and 2020 Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-CA) said Wednesday that while lawmakers have a responsibility to speak out against bigotry, she worries a House Democrat resolution condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her most recent antisemitic remarks could put her in harm’s way.
“We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry,” Harris said in a statement.
“But like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk,” the California Democrat added.
Earlier Wednesday, fellow Democrat presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) defended Omar, accusing House Democrat leadership of attempting to stifle “legitimate criticism” of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu by equating it with antisemitism.
“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world. We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel,” said Sanders. “Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace.
“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate,” the Vermont Independent continued. “That’s wrong.”
Meanwhile, House Democrats postponed a vote on the resolution after a contentious meeting in which some new members confronted leaders over their push to rebuke Omar.
In the party’s weekly closed meeting Wednesday, Democrats protested the way House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other leaders tried to rush out a resolution this week responding to Omar’s latest remark about Israel. Omar last week suggested the Jewish state’s supporters are pushing lawmakers to pledge “allegiance” to a foreign country.
Earlier this year, Omar apologized for a 2012 tweet in which she said Israel had “hypnotized” America. In February, she apologized for suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are paid to do so. That earned her stern rebukes from Pelosi and House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), among others. This time, Engel declared that Omar’s suggestion about divided loyalties was a “vile” stereotype that had no place on his committee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.