House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel pumps brakes on punishing Ilhan Omar for remarks seen as anti-Semitic

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he's not poised to punish Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., for her latest controversial remarks, which have spurred new allegations of anti-Semitism.

Omar has faced a backlash for controversial tweets dating back to 2012, when she claimed that Israel had “hypnotized the world.” In February, she suggested on Twitter that supporters of Israel have been bought, and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) contributes to pro-Israel politicians despite the fact that the group does not make campaign contributions.

The freshman congresswoman then accused Israel supporters of swearing “allegiance” to the Jewish state.

Rep. Eliot Engel said he was not looking to "punish" Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Rep. Eliot Engel said he was not looking to "punish" Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Getty, File)

Amid bipartisan condemnation, there have been growing calls for Omar to be stripped of her role on the House Foreign Affairs panel, with critics pointing to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa; he was stripped of his committee roles by House GOP leadership over remarks widely criticized as racist.

As of now, Engel is pumping the brakes regarding any punishment.

When asked on Tuesday night if he thought that Omar was an anti-Semite, Engel responded that he doesn’t “throw names around.”


“I think the remarks she’s made have been very troubling. I have spoken out very publicly and forcefully about it in saying she should apologize,” Engel told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “Look, you hope that people who get elected to office and they grow. I would hope the same thing would happen to her, but I’m not going to sit silent as long as there are people who are yelling out anti-Semitic tropes or anti-anything tropes, by the way. I’m opposed to Islamophobia. I’m opposed to hatred of any group.”

“I’m hoping that she’ll grow and she’ll change. I’m hoping. Some people change their beliefs, I’m hoping she’ll change hers,” Engel continued, downplaying accusations of anti-Semitism. “I think what she said was wrong and hurtful. I think she should understand that.”


“At what point do you say to her, Congresswoman Omar, ‘Look, you’re not on this committee anymore.’ You strip her of her seat." Burnett asked if Engel was close to that.

“No, I’m not close to it,” Engel firmly answered. “First of all, it’s not up to me, this is done by the leadership. I don’t know that that would do anything except exacerbate the situation even more. I’m looking to get rid of anti-Semitism, not looking to punish anybody.”