House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday did not call for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to apologize for her latest anti-Jewish remark, overruling House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), who demanded the freshman congresswoman apologize for her “vile antisemitic slur” last week.
Speaking before reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday, Pelosi said she doesn’t believe Omar suggesting pro-Israel groups pressure lawmakers into hold “allegiance” to a foreign country was made with “any antisemitic attitude.”
“I understand how advocates come in with their enthusiasms, but when you cross that threshold into Congress, your words weigh much more,” the California Democrat replied when asked if she believes Omar should apologize.
Speaking last Wednesday at a Washington, D.C., bookstore with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Omar said she fears everything the pair says about Israel is construed as antisemitic because they are Muslims, preventing a “broader debate” about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “I want to ask, ‘Why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the [National Rifle Association], or fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?’” she asked.
Last Friday evening, Engel criticized Omar for trafficking in anti-Jewish tropes and called on the Minnesota Democrat to apologize for her “vile antisemitic slur.”
“I welcome debate in Congress based on the merits of policy, but it’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Engel said. “Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful, and I ask that she retract them, apologize, and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives,” he continued.
Pelosi’s soft response comes as House Democratic leadership readies a resolution condemning “all hate” — no longer singling out antisemitism. The resolution was expanded to include other forms of hatred after Democrats expressed concern that a narrow resolution would bring unwanted attention to Omar, who has already apologized several times for antisemitic remarks.
Earlier this year, Omar apologized for a 2012 tweet in which she claimed Israel had “hypnotized” the world and committed “evil doings.” The freshman congresswoman apologized in February for suggesting that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) bribed Republican lawmakers into supporting the Jewish state.