President Donald Trump is prominently displaying a heavily edited video on his Twitter account attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for supposedly downplaying the seriousness of the September 11 attacks — an Islamophobic smear that Omar’s supporters say could incite further violence against her.
In a tweet on Friday evening, Trump piled onto ongoing Republican criticism that Omar belittled the attacks on the Twin Towers while speaking at a recent conference hosted by a local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
At the conference, Omar highlighted the discrimination and profiling that the Muslim American community faced after September 11. “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” she said. (Omar’s spokespeople later clarified that she slightly misspoke; CAIR was founded before the attacks, but significantly expanded its work across the country after September 11.)
On Friday, Trump shared a video — which he then pinned to the top of his Twitter account — featuring the now widely-circulated clip of Omar saying “some people did something” spliced together with footage of the towers falling after they were struck. The video does not include the full context of her comments.
“WE WILL NEVER FORGET!” Trump wrote.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET! pic.twitter.com/VxrGFRFeJM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2019
Juxtaposing Omar’s words with images of the September 11 tragedy feeds into Islamophobic tropes that Muslims are unpatriotic and sympathetic to the attacks. According to CAIR, it also directly threatens Omar’s safety.
“The president is endangering her life by taking her words out of context and using painful imagery to exploit this national tragedy,” Arsalan Bukhari, CAIR’s strategic communications manager, told ThinkProgress on Saturday morning.
Bukhari pointed out that the Minnesota lawmaker has received several death threats and bomb threats in recent months. Just a few weeks ago, New York authorities arrested a man who called her office and threatened to kill her.
“In her full speech, she meant that after the September 11 tragedy that all Americans faced together, American Muslims faced discrimination,” Bukhari said. “Over the past few months, there have been consistent attacks on her using clips like this and clipping them together like this… The end result is that some people do take violent action.”
Though Trump is lifting a sentence of Omar’s to suggest she was being insensitive about September 11, the president has himself made flippant comments about the tragedy.
At a rally in 2016, while Trump was attempting to praise the efforts of the New York firefighters who responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center, he said that emergency workers responded on “7-Eleven.”
And immediately after the tragedy in 2001, Trump appeared to boast that, with the collapse of the Twin Towers, he now owned the tallest building in Manhattan.
“40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan,” Trump said during an appearance on a New Jersey radio show.. “Before the World Trade Center it was the tallest. Then when the built the World Trade Center it become known as the second-tallest, and now it’s the tallest.”
17 years ago, today, Donald Trump bragged about how his building was now the tallest one in downtown Manhattan since the Twin Towers fell. pic.twitter.com/XOQxAVAoL5
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) September 11, 2018
“What Donald Trump says never surprises us anymore,” Bukhari said.
CAIR is calling on members of Congress, and particularly Democratic leaders, to forcefully condemn Trump’s attack on Omar.
So far, several 2020 presidential contenders — including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — have criticized Trump for promoting the misleadingly edited video of Omar.
“The president is inciting violence against a sitting congresswoman — and an entire group of Americans based on their religion,” Warren wrote on Twitter.
“We are stronger than this president’s hatred and Islamophobia. Do not let him drive us apart or make us afraid,” O’Rourke wrote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also released a statement on Saturday morning condemning the president for using “the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack,” but did not explicitly reference Omar or the Muslim American community.
The speaker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the statement was intended to specifically demonstrate support for Omar.
“Every American should be disgusted by this attack on Ilhan Omar,” Bukhari said. “Democratic leadership can no longer remain silent. They have to speak out. The average person is looking to their leaders to see what’s true and not true.”