- Attendees at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump started chanting “send her back” as Trump talked about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
- This prompted numerous responses, including ones from conservative commentators who condemned the chant.
- During Trump’s speech, he also made numerous false claims about Omar and took several of her past statements out of context.
- While speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump was asked why he did not stop the chants. “I think I did—I started speaking very quickly,” the president said. “I was not happy with it—I disagree with it.”
Pundits Respond to Trump Campaign Rally
Several prominent conservative commentators have spoken out against the “send her back” chant that broke out at the Greenville, North Carolina campaign rally for President Donald Trump, following remarks the president made about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Well-known conservative commentator Ben Shapiro condemned the chants in a tweet, writing that while he disliked Omar and believed she was an anti-Semite, “She is also an American citizen and chanting for her deportation based on her exercise of the First Amendment is disgusting.”
“Omar is a citizen and was elected to congress,” YouTube commentator Tim Pool said on Twitter. “You have a problem? Then vote her out. ‘Send her back’ is disgusting.”
Fox News contributor and conservative talk radio host Guy Benson also chimed in, saying “‘Send her back’ is an appalling chant. Omar is a US citizen.”
Omar herself responded on Twitter, writing, “I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!”
Omar also addressed the chants while speaking to reporters in the Capitol on Thursday.
“And as much as he is spewing his fascist ideology on stage, telling U.S. citizens to go back because they do not agree with his detrimental policies for our country, we tell people that here in the United States, dissent is patriotic,” she said.
While speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump was asked why he did not stop the chants. “I think I did—I started speaking very quickly,” the president said. “I was not happy with it—I disagree with it.”
Fact-Checking Trump’s Claims
The rally comes towards the end of a highly polarized week where Trump’s tweets aimed at the four congresswomen, known as The Squad, and the subsequent debate about whether the president’s remarks are racist have dominated the news cycle.
Trump has continually and fervently defended his remarks, arguing that they were not racist. He has repeatedly said that The Squad hates America and that they should be condemned for their past remarks, not him.
Despite receiving backlash from both Democrats and Republicans, Trump has remained steadfast and continued to lash out at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley to return to the countries they are from if they are unhappy in the U.S., despite the fact that all three women were born in America.
However, throughout this whole ordeal, Trump has specifically targeted Omar, a war refugee from Somalia who has lived in the U.S. almost all of her life and has been a U.S. citizen for nearly 20 years.
Trump reiterated many of his old talking points to attack Omar during the rally Wednesday night. Let’s take a took at his most significant claims.
Omar’s Statements on 9/11
Trump started out his blitz against Omar by reciting a frequently used criticized statement she made about the September 11 attacks.
“Omar minimized the September 11 attacks on our homeland, saying ‘some people did something.’ I don’t think so,” Trump said.
That claim, however, is out of context. Omar’s original statement comes from a speech she made at Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In that speech, Omar said that the Muslim extremists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks are not representative of the entire Muslim population and that all Muslims should not be treated poorly because of the actions of a few.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you one day find yourself in a school where other religions are talked about, but when Islam is mentioned we are only talking about terrorists, and if you say something you are sent to the principle’s office,” Omar said.
“So to me I say, raise hell! Make people feel uncomfortable, because here’s the truth, here’s the truth: far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second class citizen,” she continued.
“And frankly I’m tired of it and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognize that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” she added.
It’s worth noting that CAIR was actually founded in 1994, and not after 9/11, but that fact still does not change the full context of the quote.
Omar’s Statements on ISIS
Later in his speech, Trump said: “She [Omar] pleaded for compassion for ISIS recruits attempting to join the terrorist organization.”
That claim appears to refer to a letter she wrote on November 8, 2016, to a judge overseeing a case in which nine Somali-Americans were found guilty of attempting to join ISIS.
Omar was just one of many who wrote to the judge, seemingly on the defendant’s behalfs, recommending a lighter sentence than the 30-years the prosecution was recommending.
Omar’s letter did not mention the accused by name, but seems to be recommending that in general, judges should consider lighter sentences for young people attempting to join an extremist group.
She did not say this because she supports ISIS, nor anyone joining ISIS, but because she believes a “compassionate” and restorative justice approach is a better way to combat extremism.
She also argued that a 30-plus year sentence for a 20-year-old man is essentially a life sentence, and feeds narratives that extremists use to recruit.
“Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: ‘Americans do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr,’” she wrote.
Some of the most controversial comments of the night were Trump’s comments about Omar and Al-Qaeda.
“Omar laughed that Americans speak of al-Qaeda in a menacing tone and remarked that you don’t say ‘America’ with this intensity,” he said. “You say ‘al-Qaeda’ makes you proud. Al-Qaeda makes you proud!”
What he is referring to here is a 2013 interview Omar had on a local PBS show in Minneapolis while she was working as an activist.
In that interview, she talked about how Islamic terrorist groups seem frightening to Americans because the words seem foreign, even though they usually come from everyday Arabic words.
She says she took a class about terrorism in college and goes on to say, “The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said ‘al-Qaeda,’ he sort of like — his shoulders went up ‘Al-Qaeda,’ ‘Hezbollah.’”
“But it is that, you don’t say ‘America’ with an intensity, you don’t say ‘England’ with the intensity. You know, you don’t say ‘the Army’ with an intensity,” she continued. “But you say these names [of terrorist groups] because you want that word to carry weight, you want it to leave something.”
Nowhere in that interview does Omar say she is proud of Al-Qaeda, or that she supports them. In fact, she describes Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups linked to them as “evil” and said they were “taking part in terror” around the world.
Trump also went on to make another comment about Omar and Al-Qaeda.
“And at a press conference just this week, when asked whether she supported al-Qaeda,” he said. “She refused to answer. She didn’t want to give an answer to that question.”
That comes from the press conference The Squad held earlier this week to formally respond to Trump’s tweets. When a reporter asked Omar what her response was to Trump’s claim that she supports Al-Qaeda, she responded, “I will not dignify it with an answer.”
“I do not expect every time there is a white supremacist who attacks or there is a white man who kills in a school or in a movie theater, or in a mosque, or in a synagogue, I don’t expect my white community members to respond on whether they love that person or not,” she added.
Accusations of Anti-Semitism
The final claim that Trump made about Omar, which promoted the crowd to start chanting, was about the allegations of anti-Semitism.
“And obviously, and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds,” he said. That statement refers to a few things.
In February, both parties criticized Omar after she posted a tweet suggesting that pro-Israel groups buy off politicians. In the since-deleted tweet, Omar wrote: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”
That tweet got a lot of backlash from people who called the post offensive for using what many took as an anti-Semitic trope. Omar later apologized for the tweet.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she wrote.
“We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity,” she continued. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
The second instance occurred when Omar responded to another member of Congress who criticized her stance on pro-Israel lawmakers, writing, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”
Some took that as offensive because they felt that Omar suggested that pro-Israel lawmakers have dual loyalties to Israel and the U.S.
Trump also attacked Omar for her statements, but then a month later, he made a very similar statement. Speaking in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition Trump referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister” to a group of Jewish Americans.
See what others are saying: (PolitiFact) (The Washington Post) (Fox News)
House Passes Landmark Elections Bill To Expand Voting Rights
- House Democrats passed the For the People Act on Wednesday, a broad voting rights bill that aims to enhance voting rights.
- Among other measures, the legislation would mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, restore voting rights to former felons, and impose new disclosure requirements for campaign donations and political advertising.
- Democrats say the act is necessary to ensure American’s right to vote, especially as state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access and consolidate GOP power.
- Republicans have argued that states, not the federal government, should decide how elections are run and claimed the new bill would lead to fraud that helps liberal candidates.
House Approves For the People Act
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping elections bill Wednesday that aims to significantly expand federal voting rights all over the country.
The bill, called the For the People Act, was proposed by Democrats and passed 220 to 210 almost entirely along party lines. According to reports, if signed into law, it would be the most comprehensive enhancement of federal protections since the 1960s.
The bill contains a wide variety of provisions, but the most significant fall into two broader categories: creating uniform standards for voting and increasing financial transparency.
Regarding the voting rights standards, among other things, the bill would:
- Weaken restrictive state voter ID laws.
- Mandate that state governments use existing records to automatically register voters.
- Guarantee no-excuse mail voting and at least 15 days of early voting for all federal elections.
- Make it harder to purge voter rolls.
- Restore voting rights to former felons.
- End partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to appoint independent commissions to draw congressional districts.
As for what the bill aims to do regarding expanding transparency, it would:
- Impose new disclosure requirements for “dark money” donations used to finance campaigns.
- Create a public financing option for congressional campaigns.
- Require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
- Require tech platforms to disclose political advertising information.
Arguments For And Against
Democrats have argued that this legislation is essential to protecting and ensuring the right to vote.
The task, they say, is especially important now because Republican-controlled state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access as a reaction to former President Donald Trump’s loss and efforts to undermine the election. Many Republicans have used Trump’s false claims about voter fraud to promote their legislation.
Democrats have said these bills are a very transparent attempt by Republicans to consolidate their power because they know they benefit from lower voter turnout, and thus their strategy to win more races is just simply to make voting harder. As a result, Democrats have said the For the People Act is key to combatting these bills
“Everything is at stake,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said Wednesday. “We must win this race, this fight.”
Republicans, for their part, have argued that states, not the federal government, should make changes to how elections are run, and that the legislation would lead to fraud that benefits Democrats.
“House Democrats do not get to take their razor-thin majority — which voters just shrunk — and use it to steamroll states and localities to try and prevent themselves from losing even more seats next time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in response to the bill’s passage.
However, many have disputed that claim by noting that there is no evidence of widespread fraud that helped Democrats in the last election. By contrast, there are years of evidence that Republicans do benefit from making it harder for people to vote and gerrymandering districts, a fact that McConnell himself seemed to acknowledge by implying that Democrats win more when voting rights are expanded.
Despite Republican objections, recent polls have found that most Americans support having more voter protections. According to a January survey by Data for Progress, 67% of Americans back the For the People Act, including a majority of Republicans.
Still, the legislation is all but doomed in the Senate, which struck down an almost identical version passed by the House in 2019. While Democrats technically have a majority now, the current 50-50 split will require a minimum of 10 Republicans to join forces with all 50 Democrats to avoid the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Texas Governor Will Reopen State “100%” and End Mask Mandate Against Expert Advice
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Tuesday that he was opening the state “100%” and ending the mask mandate starting March 10, against health guidance from federal officials.
- Abbott justified his decision by noting that nearly 6 million Texans have been vaccinated and hospitalizations are down in the state.
- Experts, however, pointed out that less than 2 million of the state’s 29 million residents are fully inoculated, and the CDC currently ranks Texas 48th for vaccination rates out of all 50 states.
- On Tuesday alone, governors in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan as well as local leaders in Chicago and San Francisco also announced plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Abbott Announces Major COVID Policy Changes
Starting March 10, Texas will no longer have a state-wide mask mandate or any coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and facilities, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Tuesday.
The move represents the most expansive reopening of any state and makes Texas the largest state to lift its public masking requirement. However, it also goes entirely against the recommendation of the nation’s top experts.
During a press conference Monday, Rochelle Walensky, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned leaders against rolling back restrictions. She cited the fact that the recent nation-wide decline in cases has been stalling and that there has been community spread of the new variants — three of which have been found in Texas, saying:
“With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” she said.
“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress,” she continued.
“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of covid-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
Conditions in Texas
While cases have been declining in Texas, like most of the country, there is still a lot of data that makes Abbott’s decision especially concerning.
According to The New York Times tracker, Texas still ranks within the top ten states with the highest weekly cases per capita, reporting a weekly average of just over 7,200. Texas also has more hot-spot counties than any other state, according to Business Insider’s analysis of the Times data, which found that 10 counties have reported more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents on average over the last week.
Notably, that number could be skewed because of the massive drop in the testing due to a recent storm that left millions without power and clean water. In fact, experts have warned that Texas could see more COVID cases in the fallout of the storm because people were forced to shelter together.
Abbott, however, did not focus on any of that in his announcement. Instead, he cited other metrics, noting that nearly 5.7 Texans have been vaccinated. He also pointed to declines in hospitalizations.
But both of these justifications are misleading. While it is true that Texas has vaccinated close to 6 million people, according to the CDC, less than 2 million out of 29 million state residents have received both doses needed to be considered fully inoculated.
Beyond that, the CDC’s latest vaccination report ranks Texas 48th in vaccination rates out of all 50 states. Part of that is tied to the lag the state faced because of the storm, but experts still say this just proves that the state needs to be focus on catching up and vaccinating more people instead of rolling back restrictions.
To that point, public health officials have also pushed back against Abbott’s use of declining hospitalization rates as a rationale for his reopening plans. They warned that current hospitalization declines are already slowing and could reverse, and that will only get worse with reopenings.
Other States Reopen
Texas, however, is not the only state that has rolled back restrictions lately, or even just in the past 24 hours.
On Tuesday alone, the governors of Louisiana and Michigan as well as the mayors of Chicago and San Francisco all announced that they would be easing some restrictions on businesses and/or the capacity at which they operate.
Right after Abbott’s announcement, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made a nearly identical one with an even shorter timeline. In a tweet, he said that starting Wednesday, he would lift all county mask mandates and allow businesses to “operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.”
The recent easing of restrictions is part of a broader trend — and not just in states that have Republican governors or large conservative populations.
While California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) slammed Abbott’s move as “absolutely reckless,” he has also been widely condemned by leaders in his state for recently rolling back numerous restrictions.
Over the last few weeks, the Democratic governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and New York have all also lifted or otherwise modified regulations to make them less restrictive.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Dallas Morning News) (Business Insider)
Georgia House Passes Sweeping Bill To Restrict Voting Access
- The Georgia House approved an election bill Monday that would impose new restrictions on absentee voting and provisional ballots, cut weekend early voting hours, and limit physical access to voting options, among other measures.
- Republicans proposed the bill after losing the Presidential and Senate races, arguing that it is necessary to restore confidence in the state’s elections and prevent fraud.
- Democrats have condemned the proposed law, noting that Republicans created the distrust by spreading former President Trump’s false claims about election fraud even when top GOP officials in the state said there was no evidence. They also accused them of trying to suppress voters, particularly Black residents.
Georgia House Approves Election Bill
Republicans in the Georgia House passed a sweeping bill Monday that would significantly roll back voting access in the state.
The bill, which was proposed by Republicans who want to impose new restrictions after losing the election, was passed 97-72 along party lines. If signed into law, among other things, the legislation would:
- Require a photo ID for absentee voting.
- Cut the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot.
- Restrict ballot drop box locations to inside early voting locations.
- Shorten Georgia’s runoff election period.
- Impose more strict regulations on provisional ballots.
- Prevent the governments from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to registered voters.
- Ban nonprofit organizations from helping fund elections.
- Almost entirely cut early voting busses that are key to transport people to the polls.
- Prohibit food and drinks from being distributed to voters waiting in long lines.
- Limit early voting hours on weekends.
The last provision is one of the most controversial because it would include limiting the get-out-the-vote campaign known as “souls to the polls,” which is widely used by Black churches. That initiative has been credited with mobilizing Black voters all over the country since the Jim Crow era. The proposed law would limit events to just one Sunday during the early voting period, which would also be cut short.
Arguments For And Against The Bill
The Republicans who have pushed for the bill argue that it is necessary to restore public confidence in Georgia’s elections and help prevent fraud.
But Democrats, voting rights organizations, and protestors who have gathered in front of the capitol to demonstrate against the bill have pointed out that it was Republicans who hurt public trust in the state’s elections by repeating former President Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud.
Meanwhile, numerous top Republican officials — including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger — have said time and time again that there was no evidence of fraud in the 2020 elections.
Though notably, many Republican state legislators who supported the former president’s false that massive fraud had occurred in their states never contested the results of their own elections, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Democrats have also said that the bill is just the Republican’s latest, transparent attempt to drive down turnout and suppress voters — particularly Black voters who helped Democrat’s wins in the state and take the Senate — rather than actually increase election security.
As far as what happens next, the bill will head to the state Senate, which is also Republican-controlled, and already considering its own elections bill that would end no-excuse absentee voting, among other things.
From there, it will go to Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who will likely sympathetic to the cause.
Notably, this legislation the only election bill like this being proposed in state capitols around the country or even in Georgia.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislators in 43 states are considering more than 250 bills that would create impediments to voting. Dozens of those proposals exist in Georgia alone.