After Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made comments on Sunday evening that evoked an anti-Semitic trope by suggesting that Congress members’ support for Israel was a reflection of financial contributions from pro-Israel organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), congressional Democrats and Republicans alike criticized her remarks.
But six of those people have had anti-Semitic moments in their own pasts that cast shadows over their sudden concern for the Jewish community.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
McCarthy tweeted on Monday that “Anti-Semitic tropes have no place in the halls of Congress,” as he called on Democratic leaders to condemn Omar’s comments. But it was just a few months ago that McCarthy himself was accused of spreading anti-Semitic tropes when he accused three wealthy donors of Jewish descent trying to buy the 2018 midterm elections for the Democrats. “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA,” he tweeted in late October — the day after a pipe bomb sent to George Soros by an anti-Semite was intercepted by law enforcement. A day later he deleted the tweet.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Scalise tweeted on Monday: “Good that some Dems have condemned the disgraceful anti-Semitic remarks of Rep. Omar—but their words are empty unless Dem leaders remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee. No one with her anti-Semitic views should be allowed to represent US foreign policy on that committee.” But if Scalise truly feels this is disqualifying, it is odd that he continues to hold a leadership role in Congress given that in 2002, he spoke to a gathering of European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated white nationalist organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
“Why is a Member of Congress launching anti-Semitic slurs on Twitter?” Cruz tweeted on Monday. “Caricaturing support for Israel as purchased by Jewish $$—“about the Benjamins”—is an old slander. Do other Dems agree? Will media ask them? As more Dems support BDS, anti-Semitism becoming far too common.” But back in the 2016 presidential campaign, Cruz also landed in hot water after he accused opponent Donald Trump of having “New York Values” — a common code phrase used to insult American Jews. Days later, he accused Trump of having “chutzpah.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
Cramer went after Omar’s comment with a Monday morning tweet that said: “There’s nothing ‘controversial’ about this: anti-Semitism is wrong. Her comments must be universally condemned.” But two years ago, when then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer shocked anyone with a passing knowledge of the Holocaust with his pronouncement that even “someone who was as despicable as Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Cramer was one of the only politicians in either party to defend him, saying Spicer’s remarks were “not without some validity.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
Cotton’s criticism of Omar was a bit more implicit, tweeting “.@AIPAC promotes better understanding of the Middle East, combats the ancient hatred of anti-semitism, & strengthens the US alliance with Israel. I’m grateful for their work & I always look forward to seeing them. Thank you!”
But two years ago, Cotton appeared at a Jerusalem Post conference in New York City and suggested that non-Israeli Jews around the world were all spying for Israel. “It’s a lot easier to find Jews in every country around the world than it is to find Americans in some countries,” he said. “The relationships that citizens of the nation of Israel have with that diaspora – many of whom have come, for example, from the old Soviet republics once they gained independence in the early 90s – gives Israel some unique advantages that most countries don’t have when they’re trying to identify threats from overseas… Both the technical skills of Israelis as well as the worldwide relationships, because of the Jewish diaspora, gives Israel some advantages that virtually no other country or institution anywhere in the world has as well [and] often times, it has a secondary benefit for Israel’s allies.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY)
Zeldin, one of just two Jewish Republicans in Congress, tweeted Sunday night that Omar’s comments were “sick & twisted,” writing “this continued anti-Semitic trope from Omar is grossly wrong. There should be NO home in US politics, college campuses, or halls of Congress for ANY of this garbage. Now she tweets that if Members of Congress support Israel then they were bought off by Jews.” But his criticism might seem more sincere were it not for the fact that he brought both Steve Bannon (the former chief White House strategist and Breitbart head known for his ties to anti-Semitic white nationalists) and Sebastian Gorka (a former Trump security adviser who has ties to a neo-Nazi party in Hungary) to fundraise for his 2018 re-election campaign.