AIPAC speakers make thinly veiled jabs at Ilhan Omar in wake of comments deemed anti-Semitic

Although not mentioned by name, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., clearly was on the minds of many speakers at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.

Speaking at the conference on Sunday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland hit back at some of the most visible new Democrats in Congress: “By the way, there are 62 new Democratic freshmen in the House, not three.”

Hoyer apparently was referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Omar, who regularly have fought the Trump administration's policies since entering Congress.

Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, said Sunday: “Many of you know that there are people out there today, including in the halls of Congress, who believe that America supports Israel because AIPAC is powerful.”

Omar drew condemnation from members of both parties last month after she suggested in a tweet that AIPAC has been paying members of Congress to support Israel. She later apologized for the tweet -- and for other comments widely criticized as anti-Semitic -- but also insisted on what she called “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”

Hoyer, in his speech Sunday, also condemned sanctions against Israel: “Support for Israel should never be a partisan issue or be perceived as a partisan issue.”

At the end of his speech which lasted about 15 minutes, he said, “Yes, we stand with Israel because we stand for America’s security. Yes, we stand with Israel because we stand for freedom. Yes, we stand with Israel because we reject bigotry and prejudice.”

Multiple Democrats competing for the 2020 presidential nomination said Thursday they wouldn’t attend.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York were among the 2020 contenders who said they wouldn't attend, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as The New York Post reported, assured the conference Sunday afternoon Democrats as a whole were not moving away from supporting Israel.


“There’s a rather cynical attempt right now to portray some kind of drift that I don’t see and I don’t experience,” de Blasio said. “Again the vast majority of Democrats and the vast majority of progressives believe in the state of Israel and believe the United States of America needs to defend the state of Israel.”

“Period, period,” the mayor added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.