Politics

Moderate Dems ‘frustrated’ by Omar’s ‘unacceptable’ Israel comments, want to move on

The moderate Democrats who condemned Rep. Ilhan Omar over her comments apparently comparing the United States and Israel to Hamas say they are happy she issued a clarification Thursday but still “frustrated” about her longer record of making allegedly anti-Semitic remarks. 

Reps. Jason Gottheimer, D-N.J., Elaine Luria, D-Va., and Brad Schneider, D-Ill., all signed onto the statement by a group of House Democrats saying comments from Omar, D-Minn., “equating the United States and Israel to Hamas… at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice.” They expressed varying degrees of forgiveness for Omar Thursday and Friday after she met their demand to revisit her statement. 

“There’s a long history of comments here that I have found unacceptable and deeply concerning and this just adds to the record. So am I satisfied? I’m just really frustrated by the continued series of comments targeted at the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Gottheimer told Fox News when asked if he was “satisfied” with Omar’s clarification. 

Omar issued a tweet Monday about “unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.” But she partially walked back the statement Thursday, saying there is “not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel. “

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., speaking at a press conference sponsored by the Problem Solvers Caucus and the Common Sense Coalition to announce “principles for legislation to lower prescription drug prices” at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Gottheimer told Fox News Thursday that “every member of Congress has to be responsible for what they say.” (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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“I was glad that she actually took the time to offer an explanation,” Gottheimer said. But he said he disagreed with the premise of a tweet from Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., that said “House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color.”

“I think every member of Congress has to be responsible for what they say,” Gottheimer said. “The comment was posted on social media. The comment was pretty clear in Ms. Omar’s questioning of Secretary Blinken… people make mistakes, they have to clarify them.”

Schneider appeared to have his concerns assuaged more easily than Gottheimer. He issued a statement Thursday quickly accepting Omar’s clarification. 

“Democracies should never be lumped in with terrorists. I am pleased @Ilhan heard our concerns about her tweet, issued a clarification, and agrees with our point,” Schneider said. “I hope all can avoid such offhanded statements in the future as we work together to support American jobs & families.”

That was very similar to a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats in House leadership which condemned comparisons between the U.S. and terrorist groups but accepted Omar’s updated comments. 

Pelosi Friday further said she has no interest in taking disciplinary action against Omar despite calls from some Republicans to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

“I think that she clarified her remarks and that was, we accepted that and she, she, she has a point that she wanted to make and she has a right to make that point. There was some unease about how it was interpreted,” Pelosi said. 

Luria, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee with Omar, expressed strong objections about Omar’s comments in a CNN interview Friday but said she hopes Democrats can “turn the page” from the highly divisive episode. 

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“Words matter. And these comments… that conflated the U.S., U.S. military, U.S., troops with the Taliban and Hamas are unacceptable and I thought it was very important to speak out against that especially as someone who served two decades in the military,” Luria said on CNN. “These voices, extremes on both the left and the right, get a lot of attention and I think it’s important for someone like me, someone with a military background, someone who’s a moderate and I think represents the views on either side of the aisle in the middle of a majority of Americans to speak out against these kinds of comments.” 

Luria added that she is “not attacking her personally. I’m just calling out her words.” 

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign rally for presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the University of Minnesotas Williams Arena on November, 3, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar spent this week under heavy fire from moderate Democrats over controversial comments she made about Israel. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign rally for presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the University of Minnesotas Williams Arena on November, 3, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar spent this week under heavy fire from moderate Democrats over controversial comments she made about Israel. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)

Specifically addressing Omar’s Thursday clarification, Luria said she’s “taking that as she now is saying that the words she used she recognizes that she could’ve used different words or a different comparison and I think we need to turn the page.”

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Reps. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass.; Brad Sherman, D-Calif.; Ted Deutch, D-Fla.; Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.; Lois Frankel, D-Fla.; Kathy Manning, D-N.C.; Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.; Dean Phillips, D-Minn.; and Kim Schrier, D-Wash., didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story. 

The latest episode of Omar and other “Squad” Democrats clashing with party moderates follows years of tensions between the factions.  

Just weeks ago, Democrats – including Wasserman Schultz and Omar – were going to the House floor giving radically different speeches on the fighting between Hamas and Israel. And as recently as 2019 the House passed a resolution condemning bigotry in response to comments from Omar suggesting that Israel supporters were pushing for U.S. politicians to declare “allegiance” to Israel. That was seen as a form of the longstanding “dual loyalties” trope that has been used against Jewish people for centuries. 

Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich, Jason Donner and Michael Lundin contributed to this report. 

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