Days after he posted an edited video to Twitter trying to link Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to the 9/11 attacks, President Donald Trump made it through a Tax Day business roundtable in the first-term Congress member home state on Monday without mentioning her. Afterward, however, Trump told a local reporter he had no regrets about his incendiary, misleading, and dangerous tweet — even though she’s faced death threats from his supporters.
During a brief interview, Tom Hauser — a political reporter from KSTP TV, a local channel owned by Republican megadonor Stanley Hubbard — noted to Trump that his video tweet “has led to direct threats on [Omar’s] life. Any second thoughts about that tweet and the way it was produced and put together?”
“No, not at all,” Trump replied. He then went on to use a series of dog whistles about Omar, who in January became one of the country’s first Muslim congresswomen.
“Look, she’s been very disrespectful to this country. She’s been very disrespectful, frankly, to Israel. She is somebody that doesn’t really understand life, real life. What it’s all about,” Trump said. “It’s unfortunate. She’s got a way about her that’s very, very bad, I think, for our country. I think she’s extremely unpatriotic and extremely disrespectful to our country.”
REPORTER: Congresswoman Omar says your video led to direct threats on her life. Any second thoughts?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 16, 2019
TRUMP: "No, not at all." pic.twitter.com/wiSNptg0F3
Trump’s comments represent the latest in a series of rhetorical escalations against Omar since a fan of his was arrested and charged with allegedly plotting to kill her on April 6.
During a speech later that same day to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump gratuitously attacked Omar, saying “she doesn’t like Israel.” Days later, he posted a tweet accusing Omar of “assaulting Jews.” Then last Friday, he posted the tweet aforementioned tweet featuring footage of Omar speaking interspersed with graphic footage of the 9/11 attacks.
Omar first came under fire in February for comments she made criticizing the influence of pro-Israel lobbyists that some saw as playing into anti-Semitic tropes. The latest controversy stems from comments she made more recently that some criticized as downplaying the 9/11 attacks, which she described as “some people did something.”
On Sunday, Omar released a statement saying that “[s]ince the president’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life — many directly referencing or replying to the president’s video. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.”
But Trump has continued to attack her.
Before departing for Minnesota on Tuesday, Trump posted yet another tweet accusing Omar of making “anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements.” And then came his comments to Hauser after the event.
One of America’s first Muslim congresswomen is a convenient target for Trump
Trump has a long history of blatant Islamophobia, and Omar — a Somali refugee who recently became the first woman to wear a hijab on the House floor — makes a convenient target for him. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported on Monday that heading into the 2020 campaign, “Trump and his team are trying to make Ms. Omar, who is relatively unknown in national politics, a household name, to be seen as the most prominent voice of the Democratic Party, regardless of her actual position.”
“Mr. Trump has privately said his language about Muslims has been received well among his base,” the Times adds. “His advisers and friends acknowledge that, in effect, he is trying to recreate some of the same conditions of the 2016 campaign.”
Trump’s comments about Omar weren’t the only shot he took at Muslims during his trip to Minnesota. During the business roundtable event, the president repeatedly alluded to the state’s large Somali population by saying things like, “I think you have been treated extremely unfairly in the world of immigration,” and, “I think you have been treated extremely unfairly with respect to immigration. Extremely unfairly. We are going to change that. We will change it.”
Trump again takes a shot at Somalis: "I want to reiterate something that is different from what we are talking about today, but I think you have been treated extremely unfairly with respect to immigration. Extremely unfairly. We are going to change that. We will change it." pic.twitter.com/tjt8WcmqQn— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 15, 2019
Those comments were received with applause during the event, but polling shows that Minnesotans more broadly aren’t buying Trump’s barely varnished bigotry — as of last month, his approval rating was 14 points underwater in the state.