MANCHESTER, N.H. – Potential presidential contender Sen. Michael Bennet took aim Friday at recent controversial comments by freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota that were widely condemned as anti-Semitic, calling them "hateful."
“I think that what she said was something that shouldn’t be said,” the Democrat from Colorado said in an interview on Friday, as he made a swing through New Hampshire as he weighs running for the White House.
Omar, a Somali-American and one of two Muslim women in Congress, ignited a intra-party firestorm last week when she once again suggested that groups supportive of Israel were pushing members of Congress to have "allegiance to a foreign country."
After several days of infighting by Democrats, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed a broad anti-bigotry and anti-hate resolution prompted by Omar's comments. The resolution was overwhelming approved in a bipartisan vote, but some Republicans argued the broadening of the language was a ploy to distract from Omar’s remarks.
“I’m comfortable with what they passed,” Bennet said. “I think that it was right in this case to demonstrate that the House of Representatives wasn’t going to tolerate hateful statements like the one that was made.”
And Bennet spotlighted his heritage, saying “my mom and her parents were Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust and almost all the rest of the family was killed.”
He explained that “they eventually made their way to America” to escape anti-Semitism.
Republican President Donald Trump on Friday – pointing to the final resolution – attacked the Democrats and said they “have become an anti-Israel party. They have become an anti-Jewish party.”
Bennet took issue with the president’s comments, saying “he’s way off base. It’s absolutely untrue. Look. This is part of what Donald Trump does and people should understand it. At every turn – because he knows he’s fading – he tries to disqualify Democrats and the Democratic Party.”
“The Democratic Party in Washington supports Israel,” he emphasized.
And taking aim at the president, he called Trump’s tenure in the White House “a sorry chapter.”
The Republican National Committee questioned whether Bennet could resonate in Democratic nomination race that they say is moving further to the left.
“Bennet will be forced to choose between endorsing out-of-touch policy proposals that will cost taxpayers trillions of dollars, or staying barely known and barely registering with voters,” RNC Spokesperson Mandi Merritt said.
Bennet sat down for an interview during a jam-packed quick trip to New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House. Last month he stopped in Iowa, which votes first in the presidential caucus and primary calendar.
He said his decision on running for the White House would come in “weeks, not months.
Bennet, who traveled to the Granite State with his teenage daughter and an aide, said his family seems to be OK with a potential presidential run.
“I need know there’s a real opportunity for me to make difference in the race and that I could have a chance to win the race. That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” he explained.
But he added that “I’m inclined to do it.”
If he runs, Bennet would face off against a large field of contenders (it currently stands at 14), many with bigger name ID and bigger campaign war chests. And there’s already a candidate from Colorado in the race. The state’s former two-term governor – John Hickenlooper – launched his campaign on Monday.
“I don’t think two candidates from Colorado are a bad thing at all,” he said.
Bennet, who used to work for Hickenlooper, added that the former governor’s “a good friend of mine” but added “we’ve very different people with very different experiences.”