Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) has shared an account of a phone call between her and far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) after it was revealed that the Republican made Islamophobic comments about Omar at a recent event.
In a statement released on Monday, Omar said that she fielded a call from Boebert in which Boebert refused to relent on her hateful statements. “Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments,” said Omar. “She instead doubled down on her rhetoric and I decided to end the unproductive call.”
Boebert is facing a potential campaign to be removed from her committee assignments after a video posted on social media showed her likening Omar to a terrorist. At an event, the extremist conservative lawmaker told a story — which Omar has since disputed — about being in an elevator with Omar when a Capitol police officer rushed to protect her, thinking that Omar was a threat.
“Well she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine,” Boebert recounted saying. She also referred to Omar as being part of the “jihad squad,” a hateful nickname for progressive lawmakers dubbed by GOP officials.
Omar emphasized in a statement on Monday that she picked up the phone in hopes of having a civil conversation with Boebert. “I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate,” she said.
She concluded the statement by criticizing the GOP for refusing to rid the party of the anti-Muslim sentiment that has long been embroiled in conservatism.
“The Republican Party leadership has done nothing to condemn and hold their own members accountable for repeated instances of anti-Muslim hate and harassment. This is not about one hateful statement or one politician; it is about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred,” Omar said, calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) to take action.
In the press release, Omar’s office also pointed out that the progressive lawmaker is regularly subjected to death threats that are riddled with Islamophobic sentiment. Though the GOP has spewed racist and otherwise hateful rhetoric for decades, the party seems to have embraced more violent and hostile tactics to abase political opponents in recent years.
Although Boebert issued a hollow apology after facing criticism for the video over the weekend, critics have pointed out that her words were disingenuous. Her behavior after the supposed apology has repeatedly confirmed that she does not regret her actions; in an Instagram video on Monday, Boebert suggested that Omar sympathizes with terrorists in yet another blatant display of Islamophobia.
In response to Omar’s statement, establishment media outlets have framed the phone call as a spat between two lawmakers rather than a show of — and tacit endorsement of — bigotry by the GOP. Fox News and CNN emphasized that Omar hung up on Boebert; NPR’s headline on the subject emphasized that the phone call was contentious; and The New York Times’s headline seemed to give Boebert credence for calling Omar.
These sorts of headlines make it seem as though both parties are at equal fault, implying that Omar, who has faced Islamophobic comments countless times during her tenure in Congress, has also somehow done wrong in the social and political equation. This plays directly into the right wing’s hands, normalizing rhetoric that justifies their platform of militarism and imperialism, racist immigration policy and the expansion of the surveillance state. This rhetoric also has the potential to stoke violence; over the past two decades, the precipitous rise of anti-Muslim sentiment has correlated with a rise in anti-Muslim violence and hate crimes.
Omar responded to a Fox News story about the phone call on Monday, saying, “There is only so much grace we can extend to others as humans before we must learn to cut our [losses] or hang up on someone in this case.”
It’s improbable that Republican leaders will take action against Boebert, who likely issued her supposed apology in order to avoid being reprimanded like Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), who was censured after posting a video depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). Gosar, who never apologized for his video and instead doubled down on its message, now faces calls to be removed.