As Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) faces Islamophobic attacks from Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) and other far-right members of Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has joined a chorus of Democrats in condemning Republicans for their silence on the issue.
On Tuesday, Omar shared a voicemail she received after a video emerged of Boebert cruelly implying that Omar is a terrorist because of her faith. The caller who left the harrowing voicemail made several threats to Omar’s life while hurling racist slurs and profanities against her. This is only one of the many death threats that she received after Boebert’s video was posted online, Omar said.
Ocasio-Cortez condemned Republicans in a tweet on Wednesday. “People truly don’t understand the scale, intensity, and volume of threats targeting [Ilhan Omar],” she wrote. “Kevin McCarthy is so desperate to be speaker that he is working with his Ku Klux Klan caucus to look aside and allow violent targeting of woc members of Congress. This cannot be ignored.”
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As minority leader in the House, McCarthy has consistently enabled the most virulent hatred within his caucus. Ocasio-Cortez herself was the subject of a violent threat by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), who recently posted a video depicting an anime version of him killing the progressive lawmaker and threatening President Joe Biden with swords.
The House voted to censure Gosar over the threat and remove him from his committee assignments, with only two Republicans joining Democrats in doing so. Meanwhile, McCarthy and other Republicans defended Gosar through the debacle, minimizing Gosar’s role in posting the fantasy video of him murdering the progressive lawmaker.
McCarthy has remained silent on the recent threats to Omar, signalling his tacit approval for the Islamophobia the lawmaker has been forced to endure.
“While people toss out clichés like ‘we condemn all forms of racism and bigotry,’ the fact is Islamophobia is far too often tolerated and ignored,” Ocasio-Cortez continued on Wednesday. “Bigotry is not made unacceptable by what one says about it, it’s made acceptable based on whether there are consequences for it or not.”
The New York lawmaker concluded with a warning about the consequences of allowing the GOP to continue escalating dangerous far-right tactics completely unchecked. “GOP are given freedom to incite without consequence. They don’t have to pay for the security required from their acts — we do. They make money off it,” she wrote, adding that they “are targeting those least likely to be institutionally protected first.”
Progressive lawmakers like Omar and Ocasio-Cortez have had to consider additional personal safety protocols to guard from death threats and other violent messages. These threats are not only coming from members of the public; Ocasio-Cortez has previously said that she has feared fellow lawmakers, especially during the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Republicans appear to be increasingly accepting of violence and threats toward political adversaries, including against people within their own party. One Republican representative, Fred Upton of Michigan, recently received a death threat after he voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill that much of the caucus voted against. The threat came after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) posted Upton’s office number online, calling him and other Republicans who voted for the bill “traitors.”
These tactics aren’t just psychologically harmful — they can also lead to real life violence, as Omar pointed out in her press conference on Tuesday. As Islamophobic vitriol increases, attacks on Muslims also rise. This was demonstrated under former President Donald Trump, who regularly implemented Islamophobic policies and spouted hateful language.
The normalization of fascism by Republicans appears to be an extremely cynical fundraising tactic. Republicans, inspired by Trump, have been making increasingly abhorrent comments in recent years. They cry that they’re being cancelled — kicked off of Twitter for a day, or criticized by Democrats — and then send emails telling followers that the only way to fight back is to fill their campaign coffers to the brim.
In response to the attacks on Omar, Democratic leaders have been considering what action to take against Boebert. Some lawmakers have called for Boebert to be removed from her committee assignments, a punishment similar to the one faced by Gosar.