Rep Ilhan Omar offered searing criticism for the House Republican leader on Sunday after he did not condemn members of his caucus including Rep Lauren Boebert for a series of deeply offensive comments about her Islamic faith.
The Minnesota congresswoman appeared on CNN’s State of the Union for an interview with host Jake Tapper after an Islamophobic joke made by Ms Boebert last month was revealed by the network to be only the tip of an iceberg of similar comments made by the far-right congresswoman.
Ms Omar blamed Rep Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, for not doing more to condemn the remarks and discipline his members for racist or otherwise deeply offensive comments; in Ms Omar’s case, the Colorado congresswoman joked (and directly argued, in later serious remarks) that she was a terrorist.
“McCarthy is a liar and a coward. He doesn’t have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member of his caucus,” she said.
“This is who they are,” she continued. “We have to be able to stand up to them, and we have to push them to reckon with the fact that their party, right now, is normalising anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Ms Omar went on to characterise the issue as not one of personal safety for herself, but rather an issue of whether young Muslims would be safe in communities across the US.
She added that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi planned to address the issue in the coming week.
“I’m very confident she will take decisive action next week,” Ms Omar said of the Speaker, who she said had been in contact with her as the controversy evolved.
It wasn’t certain what form that action will entail, but the House recently voted to censure Rep Paul Gosar and strip him of committee membership under her direction after he tweeted an anime video depicting the killing of a monster with the face of Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat from New York.
Tapper noted that four members of the GOP conference had condemned the rhetoric used by the Colorado Republican, while adding that the vast majority of the conference had not directly done so. He then asked Ms Omar what it meant that those four were facing backlash and criticism for standing up to their party.
“[It] tells you that their conference condones this,” Ms Omar said.
One of the four who did condemn Ms Boebert’s remarks was Rep Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina who became embroiled in a feud with Boebert’s ally Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene over the issue of whether or not to condemn Islamophobic rhetoric. Ms Greene has made similar comments, and is known for her incendiary remarks including an endorsement of violence against Speaker Pelosi that earned her a removal from her committee membership earlier this year.
Mr McCarthy’s management of his caucus is seen as a potential hurdle to his goal of becoming Speaker of the House following next year’s midterm elections, in which his party is projected to pick up seats and potentially take control of one or both chambers of Congress.
He faces criticism from moderates in the GOP for not disciplining far-right members of his caucus for public comments that incur criticism for their offensive nature, while he also risks losing the support of many far-right members in the House if he stands up to them and condemns their remarks or actions publicly.
Some Republicans have threatened openly to utilise censure and other disciplinary powers of the House against Democrats as an act of political revenge if their party retakes the House next year, while claiming that Democrats do not discipline their own members for remarks that Republicans have said are offensive.
The Independent has reached out to Minority Leader McCarthy’s office for comment on Ms Omar’s interview.
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