Democratic Muslim Reps. Omar, Tlaib, and Carson respond to Lauren Boebert’s anti-Muslim comments: ‘We are not anyone’s scapegoat’

Ilhan Omar voicemail
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar plays a voicemail containing an anti-Muslim message from an unknown person during a news conference addressing Islamophobic comments by Rep. Lauren Boebert on November 30, 2021. Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters
  • Democratic Muslim Reps. Omar, Tlaib, and Carson held a press conference following comments from Rep. Lauren Boebert. 
  • Last week, a video surfaced of Boebert suggesting Omar was a suicide bomber.
  • Boebert could face action from House Democrats this week.

Democratic Reps. Andre Carson, of Indiana, Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan — the only three Muslim members of the House of Representatives — called for Rep. Lauren Boebert and Republican leadership to face consequences after Boebert’s recent anti-Muslim remarks.

“We are committed to ensuring a real consequence,” Carson, the Dean of the Muslim Caucus, said during a press conference held by the three on Tuesday. “Rep. Boebert’s comments are an insult to this institution and to American ideals. We are NOT anyone’s scapegoat.”

Carson told reporters that he was working on a resolution with Democratic leadership. Rep. Rashida Tlaib urged Republican leadership to hold members of their caucus accountable and “end this now.”

“We may only be three among hundreds, but we are strong advocates that will not shy away from demanding justice for our community,” Tlaib said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, who spoke last, opened with the story of Salman Hamdani, a Muslim-American EMT who died helping others on 9/11 but was vilified in the media because of his faith.

“Not all of us are as heroic, but almost all have experienced this suspicion,” Omar said, recounting anti-Muslim comments she weathered from Republican colleagues and former President Donald Trump.

“On my first day, my then-colleague Steven King claimed that another member said there may be four pounds of C4 under my hijab that could destroy half of congress,” Omar said, referring to a tweet King made last week. 

She added that Islamophobia “pervades our culture, our politics, and even policy decisions.” Omar spoke of the treatment Keith Ellison, her predecessor, faced during his tenure as a Muslim politician.

“I myself have reported hundreds of threats on my life, often triggered by Republican attacks on my faith. And this week once again saw another increase. Here is just one voicemail my office received yesterday.” Omar said.

Omar then played a minute-long voicemail that she said she received recently. (Warning, the language in the video is graphic.)

“We see you Muslim sand N-word bitch, we know what you’re up to. You’re all about taking over our country. Don’t worry, there’s plenty that will love the opportunity to take you off the face of this fucking earth. Come get it. But you fucking Muslim piece of shit. You jihadist. We know what you are. You’re a fucking traitor. You will not live much longer,” the man who sent the voicemail said. 

“We cannot pretend that this hate speech from leading politicians does not have real consequences,” Omar said.

Last week, a video surfaced of Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado telling an Islamophobic joke about Omar that suggested she was a suicide bomber. While House Democratic leadership has condemned Boebert’s rhetoric, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday that a decision had not yet been made over whether to censure the congresswoman.

“There really hasn’t been significant discussion about it, so I don’t want to prejudge what action we think will be necessary,” he said. “Hopefully the Republican Party and its leadership would take direct action to cleanse itself from this toxic kind of conduct.”

But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has yet to comment on Boebert’s remarks publicly.

“Silence is not appropriate,” said Hoyer.

‘I don’t think that will be a productive conversation’

Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado at a press conference on March 17, 2021.
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado at a press conference on March 17, 2021. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The controversy over Boebert’s Islamophobic remarks began on Thanksgiving Day, when a video surfaced on Twitter showing Boebert at a campaign event recounting a supposed run-in with Omar at the US Capitol where they both work in the House of Representatives.

Boebert said she stepped onto an elevator with Omar on her way back to her office after a vote, prompting a Capitol Police officer to run towards the elevator with “fret all over his face.” Boebert describes being confused about the encounter before noticing Omar standing in the elevator with her.

“Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,” Boebert said she told the officer.

Boebert said she then turned to Omar and added, “Oh look, the Jihad Squad decided to show up for work today.” “Jihad Squad” is a derisive term for the Squad, a group of six progressive members of Congress who are all people of color.

Omar has denied that this encounter happened.

Boebert later tweeted: “I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar. I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”

That led to a fractious phone call on Monday between the two members, with Boebert claiming that Omar hung up on her while the Minnesota congresswoman’s team said that they ended the call after it became clear Boebert would not apologize more forcefully for her actions.

McCarthy told CNN in a statement on Saturday that he had spoken with Hoyer about setting up a meeting between the two congresswomen. But Hoyer told reporters he “didn’t broker a call” between the two members after speaking with Rep. Omar about the possibility.

“I called Mr. McCarthy back and I said I don’t think that will be a productive conversation,” said Hoyer, noting that Boebert has employed Islamophobic rhetoric throughout both her campaign and her tenure in Congress.

Another video surfaced on Tuesday of Boebert telling a similar story about Omar at a separate event.

Former President Trump issued a lie-filled rant about Omar on Tuesday, calling on the Somali-American refugee to apologize for “abandoning her former country.”