Boebert and Omar fight leaves GOP scrambling
The war of words between the two lawmakers escalated on Monday when they clashed in a heated phone call over Islamophobic remarks Boebert made suggesting Omar could be a terrorist.
For Republicans, the battle marked yet another headache in which a member of its far-right flank attacked a prominent progressive lawmaker of color less than two weeks after House Democrats moved to censure and take away committee assignments from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) for posting an edited anime video depicting himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Democrats, meanwhile, seized on Boebert’s remarks to cast the GOP as beholden to extremist elements and pressure House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to condemn her actions.
At the same time, Democrats don’t appear ready to formally punish Boebert like they did with Gosar or with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) earlier this year, in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, for appearing to endorse political violence.
McCarthy, for his part, said that he spoke with Boebert on Friday and that she apologized for her remarks. He also said in a statement that he phoned House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) asking for help coordinating a conversation between Omar and Boebert “so that Congress can get back to talking to each other and working on the challenges facing the American people.”
The controversy between Omar and Boebert began after a video surfaced over the Thanksgiving weekend of Boebert saying that she and a staffer were getting on a Capitol elevator when she saw a Capitol Police officer racing toward them.
She then turned and saw Omar standing nearby. “I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,’ ” Boebert recalled, drawing laughs from the audience. “And I said, ‘Oh, look. The ‘jihad squad’ decided to show up for work today.’”
Omar denied that the encounter ever happened and accused Boebert of inventing a false story to smear her.
Unlike Gosar, Boebert initially made an effort to clean up her remarks and issued an apology on Friday “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar.” Boebert also reached out to Omar’s office to speak with her directly.
But any effort to patch things up quickly unraveled when Boebert and Omar finally connected over the phone on Monday.
Omar issued a statement saying that she accepted Boebert’s call “in the hope of receiving a direct apology for falsely claiming she met me in an elevator, suggesting I was a terrorist, and for a history of anti-Muslim hate.”
“Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments. She instead doubled down on her rhetoric and I decided to end the unproductive call,” Omar said.
“I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate,” she added.
Boebert, for her part, said in a video posted to Instagram that “as a strong Christian woman who values faith deeply, I never want anything I say to offend someone’s religion.” But she expressed frustration that Omar wanted a more extensive public apology and believed “what I had done wasn’t good enough.”
Boebert, citing the Minnesota Democrat’s past criticisms of Israel and support for the “defund the police” movement, went on to again engage in an Islamophobic trope by suggesting Omar sympathizes with terrorists.
“Make no mistake, I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can’t say the same thing. And our country is worse off for it,” Boebert said.
Boebert’s renewed attacks on Omar came after Greene tweeted over the weekend that Omar and the “jihad squad” — a derogatory term she and Boebert have both used to describe the “squad” of progressive lawmakers of color — “are undeserving of an apology.”
Aside from repeatedly using the term “jihad squad,” both Greene and Boebert have invoked Islamophobic tropes or made anti-Muslim statements.
Before she began serving in the House, Greene visited the offices of Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — another progressive “squad” member who is also Muslim — and falsely claimed that they weren’t legitimate members of Congress because they took their oaths of office on the Quran instead of the Bible.
Omar also highlighted a clip of Boebert saying in an interview with a conservative talk show host that “it’s really unfortunate that we have United States representatives who are full-time propagandists for Hamas, for state-sponsored terrorism.”
Yet Greene and Boebert aren’t outliers on the far right when it comes to expressing anti-Muslim sentiment.
This week’s controversy comes almost six years after former President Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Pueblo County, Colo., Republican Party Chairman Robert Leverington expressed support for Boebert and told a Colorado radio station that she “probably expressed the sentiment of many Americans.”
And earlier this month, a Republican candidate who unexpectedly defeated the New Jersey state Senate president was found to have expressed anti-Muslim messages in social media posts.
Other Republicans, meanwhile, distanced themselves from Boebert and urged McCarthy to condemn her remarks.
“I think whenever, even in our own caucus, our own members, if they go the wrong direction, I mean, it has to be called out. It has to be dealt with, particularly whenever it is breaching the civility, whenever it is crossing the line in terms of violence or increasing the divide in our country,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
And Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), one of the two Republicans who voted to rebuke Gosar this month, tweeted that Boebert is “TRASH.”
“I take sides between decency and disgusting in how we govern,” Kinzinger wrote.