In Brief

Democrats fracture over 9/11 row

2020 presidential contenders face ‘litmus test’ over Trump’s video of Congresswomen Ilhan Omar’s comments

Democratic presidential hopefuls face a significant test over how they respond to a video tweeted by Donald Trump in which a freshman congresswomen questions the seriousness of the 9/11 terror attacks.

In a clip tweeted by the US president, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is seen saying “some people did something,” between footage of planes hitting the Twin Towers and people fleeing the buildings.

Republicans have accused her of downplaying the attacks, which has prompted suggestions from right-wing news outlets and some politicans that Omar, a black Muslim women who wears a hijab, is un-American and un-patriotic, and even that her religious beliefs are “antithetical to the United States constitution”.

The Independent reports that one tweet liked by the president's son, Donald Jr, called Omar’s politics “not American” and suggested she has “no allegiance” to the US.

The first Muslim woman ever elected to Congress, Omar has become a lightning rod for controversy and Republican anger since she was sworn in in January.

But the Democratic leadership and some freshmen Democrats “have disagreed over how to respond to attacks on [her]”, The Guardian reports.

Her criticism of US policy on Israel and claims support was fuelled by donations from powerful Jewish lobby groups drew sharp criticism from Republicans and even some senior Democrats, and was quickly rebuked by House Speaker and nominal head of the party Nancy Pelosi.

However, the response was widely criticised by the younger, progressive wing of the party “furious about the leadership's gambit” says CNN. They questioned why there was not the same denunciation of Republican bigotry and whether it could even put Omar’s life in danger.

Not wanting a repeat of the row which threatened to derail the party’s legislative agenda ahead of next year’s presidential election, for now, “Democrats have largely rallied to her defence, saying she had been quoted out of context and some accusing Trump of inciting violence against her and Muslims” reports the BBC.

Lois Beckett in The Observer writes Donald Trump’s attack on the Muslim congresswoman “swiftly became something of a litmus test for Democratic politicians, as some of the most progressive 2020 presidential candidates spoke most quickly and forcefully in Omar’s defense”.

Senator Bernie Sanders called attacks on Omar “disgusting and dangerous” and said she would not “back down to Trump’s racism and hate, and neither will we”.

Senator Elizabeth Warren said: “The president is inciting violence against a sitting congresswoman – and an entire group of Americans based on their religion. It’s disgusting. It’s shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.”

By contrast, more centrist contenders, including former vice-president Joe Biden and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, remained silent in the 24 hours that followed Trump’s tweet.

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