Democrat Jan Schakowsky Defends Ilhan Omar: ‘She Comes from a Different Culture’

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 10: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (3rd L) speaks as (L-R) Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) listen during a news conference on prescription drugs January 10, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Congressional …
Alex Wong/Getty Images; Edit: BNN

Appearing on MSNBC Thursday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)  attempted to defend Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), suggesting that her repeated antisemitism be met with more understanding because she is a Somalian refugee.

A partial transcript is as follows:

HALLIE JACKSON: It’s our understanding it’s been reported that in that feisty caucus meeting yesterday, you stood up and at one point pleaded with your colleagues “everybody stop tweeting.” Do you think that what’s been going on, as it relates to this resolution, is creating problems inside the part and is it a distraction from what you want to do legislatively?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: I’m going to answer all of your questions about this, but I certainly wish that the media would start to also really cover as a big deal that fact that the House, for the first time in 25 years, passed two gun-safety legislation for background checks. Tomorrow, we have one of the biggest bills to make sure that we have fair elections–

JACKSON: –Huge bill on voting and ethics reform, absolutely. But, Congresswoman, I think you would acknowledge that is getting lost in the shuffle because of these other disagreements related to the issues that are going on right now.

REP. SCHAKOWSKY: I think it’s because — the press included, Hallie, I’m sorry, also likes to exploit these kinds of, maybe, heighten more sexy kinds of battles, and it is not a battle. I want to tell you that. I did say “stop tweeting” in that caucus yesterday because I think that this is not a conversation that we ought to have on social media and in the public. But if you want to know the truth, the majority of us, the vast majority, are going to be voting for a resolution that I hope puts this to bed — that says, yes, as a Jew, antisemitism is a huge deal, the antisemitic acts are up 50 percent over last year.

But Islamophobia is also a huge problem, and I want to tell you that Ilhan Omar, Congresswoman, is under tremendous attack, death threats. I think maybe she needs some security. And why? Because I think, in part, the Republicans and the media have blown this up to be much more than it is. We do have to deal with the kind of diversity in our caucus. I want to tell you, Ilhan talked to me personally… Not only did she apologize for the words that she has used, but she apologized personally to me as a Jew.

I want to tell you, part of being a Jew is to be welcoming to the stranger. And I want to tell you, Ilhan Omar is a refugee from Somalia. She comes from a different culture. She has things to learn. I am not either trivializing antisemitism or the things that she said or saying that it’s okay that she said them, but what I am saying is that I think this is a learning moment for her and a learning moment for the caucus on how to get along.


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