GOP leaders blast Pelosi for elevating freshman rep with history of anti-Israel remarks

A series of top Republicans on Thursday condemned the decision by Democratic leaders to elevate freshman Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, charging that she has a history of making overtly anti-Semitic comments.

The strong GOP criticism came as Omar separately fielded wide-ranging criticism for posting on Twitter that South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was "compromised" -- and then, in a head-turning interview on CNN, admitting she had no evidence for the assertion other than that Graham sometimes supported President Trump. Omar has since rejected suggestions that her comments were intended as a homophobic dog whistle.

“Nancy Pelosi said in 2017 that Congress ‘must’ oppose the BDS movement against Israel," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement, referring to the anti-Israel "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" effort. "Chuck Schumer went even further, calling BDS ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘profoundly biased.’ I would love to know what changed, because Democratic leaders just promoted a pro-BDS Democrat to a key committee that deals with the State of Israel."

Omar -- a Muslim who wrote in 2012 that "Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel" -- has opposed GOP senators' push for legislation that would permit local and state governments to refuse to work with companies that participate in the BDS movement. Omar reportedly admitted she had previously supported the BDS movement in an interview after she was elected in November, seemingly contradicting her past comments.


Legal experts have said the proposed anti-BDS legislation, backed by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and others, runs afoul of the First Amendment by permitting the government to punish speech because of its viewpoint. Omar has also said her opposition to the law relates only to objections about its constitutionality.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., Rep. Christopher Pappas, D-N.H., Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and other freshmen member of the House of Representatives speak about the government shutdown on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., Rep. Christopher Pappas, D-N.H., Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and other freshmen member of the House of Representatives speak about the government shutdown on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Earlier this month, Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is also Muslim, charged that Republicans who supported the bill "forgot what country they represent." Some conservatives, including Rubio, accused Tlaib of employing a longstanding anti-Semitic slur by suggesting that Jewish politicians are not loyal to the constituents who elected them.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in Congress and certainly not on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I am deeply disappointed in Speaker Pelosi’s choice, a choice that threatens the Committee’s long history of bipartisan support for Israel," McCarthy added.

In a separate statement, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., called for Democrats to justify their decision.


“It is disgraceful that Speaker Pelosi and her Democrat majority gave a coveted seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee to a member who has a documented history of making anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks," Scalise said. "Rather than standing up against the disturbing rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric on the left, House Democrats have now just endorsed that ideology. House Democrats need to address why they are endorsing these views by rewarding Rep. Omar with this important committee seat.”

Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, who as House Republican Conference Chair is the No. 3 Republican in the House, echoed that rhetoric. "The House Democrat Leadership should immediately condemn Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli views," Cheney said. "Anti-Semitism can never be allowed to stand, in any form or forum. It is shameful for it to be ignored by the Democrat leadership in the House."

Neither Pelosi nor Omar returned Fox News' request for comment.

Some observers, meanwhile, alleged that Omar's elevation to the prestigious post is a symptom of a longstanding problem lurking in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro alleged in an op-ed earlier this month that "Democrats have soured on Israel and warmed to anti-Semitism."


Images earlier this month showed Tlaib wearing Palestinian robes and posing with Linda Sarsour, a proponent of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan has compared Jews to termites and praised Hitler.

"The truth is that the Democratic Party has been flirting with, and in some cases openly embracing, anti-Semitism for years," Shapiro wrote. "That’s why top members of the Democratic Party continue to kowtow to open anti-Semites like Linda Sarsour and Louis Farrakhan; it’s why the Democrats booed Jerusalem in the 2012 Democratic National Committee platform; it’s why the Obama administration routinely played public relations arm for the Iranian government; it’s why no major Democrat will go on record condemning Tlaib or Ilhan Omar."

For her part, Omar on Thursday attempted to do damage control after her comments on Graham, writing on Twitter: “Y’all know my tweet had nothing to do with his sexuality and everything to do with his blind cooperation w/ Trump. She also accused Republicans of homophobia for making the claim.

Later Thursday, Graham -- who has frequently criticized Trump in the wake of his planned Syria pullout -- again took aim at the White House, saying it was "inappropriate" for the president to abruptly cancel Pelosi's overseas trip.

And Omar's baseless remarks came the same day that MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle came under fire for implying that Graham was being blackmailed by Trump over “something pretty extreme.”

Jon Cooper, chairman of the Democratic Coalition, a super PAC created to defeat Trump in the 2016 presidential election, on Sunday pushed the unfiltered version of the conspiracy on Twitter.

He said Graham “is kowtowing to Trump (and indirectly Putin)” because he’s being blackmailed over “some pretty serious sexual kink,” according to an unnamed Republican he spoke with.

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a national committeewoman for the Republican National Committee, slammed Omar’s comment for bigotry: “Breathtaking bigotry, homophobia from a member of Congress. It's not funny, and puzzling why Dems get away with outdated stereotypes and dumb conspiracy theories like this.”

Fox News' Lukas Mikelionis contributed to this report.