WASHINGTON (AP) – Days after flamboyant Conservative Rep. Lauren Bobert of Colorado was heavily criticized for anti-Muslim comments about MP Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat whom she likened to a terrorist carrying a bomb, they spoke on phone on Monday.
Things didn’t go well for both legislators.
The conversation Bobert gravitated toward after his tepid announcement last Friday provided an opportunity to stretch out an olive branch in a House torn apart by tension. Instead, it ended abruptly after Bobert rejected Omar’s plea for a public apology, fueling party strife that has become a feature rather than a mistake by the GOP since a crowd of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Bobert has previously apologized to “any member of the Muslim community whom I have offended,” but not directly to Omar.
This is just the latest example of a GOP MP making a personal assault against another member of Congress, an alarming trend that has largely gone unheeded by House Republican leaders. It also tests the Democrats’ newfound determination to punish Republicans.
Earlier this month, Arizona-based conservative spokesman Paul Gosar was criticized for his violent video. In February, Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green was expelled from congressional committees for incendiary rhetoric.
After a phone call on Monday, Omar and Bobert quickly issued statements denouncing each other.
“I believe in being respectful of those with whom we disagree, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hatred,” Omar said in a statement. She said that she “decided to end the unproductive call.”
Bobert responded in his Instagram video, “Dismissing apologies and hanging up is part of the 101 abolition culture and the heart of the Democratic Party.”
The chain of events was set in motion over a week ago when Bobert posted a video of her speech to voters on Facebook describing an interaction with Omar – an interaction that Omar claims never happened.
In the video, a newcomer, a Colorado MP, claims that a Capitol police officer approached her with “irritation on her face” shortly before she climbed into the House’s elevator and the doors closed.
“I look to the left, and here she is – Ilkhan Omar. And I said, “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. Everything will be fine with us, ”laughs Bobert.
Omar is a Muslim. Bobert’s comment that Omar does not carry a backpack clearly indicates that she was not carrying a suicide bomb.
The response to the video was quick. Omar called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to “take action” because “the normalization of this bigotry is endangering not only my life, but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim fanaticism has no place in Congress. “
The House Democratic leadership also issued a joint statement condemning “Bobert’s repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions” and called on McCarthy to “finally take real action to counter racism.”
Nonetheless, McCarthy, who is set to become House Speaker if the Republicans return a majority next year, has proven reluctant to view members of his police faction, whose views often overlap with the party’s base.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker had nothing to add on Monday and pointed to a statement made by Democratic leaders last week calling for McCarthy to act.
Bobert tweeted Friday that “I apologize to everyone in the Muslim community that I insulted with my comment about Republican Omar,” adding that “there are many political differences to focus on without being distracted.”
This isn’t the first time Bobert has faced controversy, as has Omar. Since Bobert’s election to Congress in 2020, she has leaned towards provocative statements that delight the party’s base. Omar especially caught her attention. She previously referred to Omar and others as “staff propagandists” for “state-sponsored terrorism” and “politicians with suicide belts tied to their bodies.”
In May, she tweeted that Omar was “a constant propagandist for Hamas.” She also called Omar and Michigan State Representative Rashida Tlaib “evil,” while calling them a “jihad squad.” Tlaib, like Omar, is a Muslim.
Omar also drew attention to her comments, often referring to Israel, some of which were described as anti-Semitic.
In 2019, she suggested that Israeli supporters were pushing US lawmakers to take an oath of “foreign country allegiance.” She was also pressured to “unequivocally” apologize for claiming that Israel’s support by Congress was “wholly connected to the baby of Benjamin,” a long-standing thesis that Jews buy influence.
The Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives intervened and directly rebuked Omar for this statement.