House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives issued a furious joint statement condemning Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP officials for failing to discipline their members for “inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric” in the wake of the latest attack against US Rep Ilhan Omar.
“Leader McCarthy and the entire House Republican Leadership’s repeated failure to condemn inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric from members of their conference is outrageous,” they said in a statement on 26 November.
“We call on the Republican Leadership to address this priority with the Congresswoman and to finally take real action to confront racism,” they said.
Republican US Rep Lauren Boebert issued an apology from her congressional office’s Twitter account after video of her suggesting Rep Omar – one of two Muslim women in Congress – was mistaken for a terrorist in an elevator on Capitol Hill.
“I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep Omar,” she said. “I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”
In a video showing her addressing a group of supporters, Rep Boebert criticised what she has called the “jihad squad” in Congress, claiming that she and a member of her staff were in an elevator as a US Capitol Police officer reached for the door as it closed.
“What’s happening? I look to my left, and there she is: Ilhan Omar,” she said. “And I said, well, she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.”
She added: “So we only had one floor to go. I said, ‘Oh look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.’”
Rep Omar, the first Somali American elected to Congress, responded to the video on Thursday after it spread across social media.
“Fact, this buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol, this whole story is made up,” she said. “Sad she thinks bigotry gets her clout.”
On Friday, she added that “saying I am a suicide bomber is no laughing matter” and called on House leadership to “take appropriate action”.
The statement from Speaker Pelosi and House Democratic leaders – including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar – said that “racism and bigotry of any form, including Islamophobia, must always be called out, confronted and condemned in any place it is found.”
“Congresswoman Boebert’s repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions against another member of Congress, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, are both deeply offensive and concerning,” they said in the statement.
Democratic leaders called on congresswoman Boebert “to fully retract these comments and refrain from making similar ones going forward.”
Rep Boebert was widely criticised for referring to Rep Omar as a member of the “jihad squad” during a speech on the floor of the House during debate over whether far-right Republican congressman Paul Gosar should be censured for posting an anime clip depicting the killing of US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In February, House Democrats and several Republicans voted to remove far-right US Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments following antisemitic and anti-Muslim remarks on social media as well as her amplification of violent conspiracy theories and endorsement of political executions.
The formal rebuke of Rep Gosar – the first censure in the House in more than a decade – followed only the latest attempt from the Arizona congressman and his team to legitimise rhetoric that has festered online for years before landing in the halls of Congress.