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Over the weekend, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted ironically, asking why hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman would support “fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg” in his potential run for president.
Retweeting CNBC’s link to an article quoting Cooperman making this comment, Omar added, “I wonder why,” and a thinking face emoji.
I wonder why? 🤔 https://t.co/fc2wx26oTA— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 9, 2019
While many realized that Omar was referencing their billionaire status, and the anger billionaires have faced recently, the fact that both Bloomberg and Cooperman are both Jewish led others to accuse her of anti-Semitism, a favorite right-wing trope when it comes to Omar.
“Putting ((( ))) around their names would have gotten the message across more effectively, @IlhanMN, but I see people understood you anyway,” tweeted Lahav Harkov, senior contributing editor of The Israel Times.
Right-wing outlet PJ Media misquoted Omar as saying that Cooperman supports Bloomberg because they’re both Jewish. “Ilhan Omar Suggests Billionaire Leon Cooperman Supports Mike Bloomberg Because They Are Both Jewish,” a headline in the outlet read. Fringe right-wing outlets followed suit.
Again? Ilhan Omar Accused Of Tweeting Anti-Semitic ‘Dog-Whistle’ pic.twitter.com/2lQ7dam569— David J Harris Jr (@DavidJHarrisJr) November 11, 2019
Others cast the claims of anti-Semitism as a bad faith interpretation of what the congresswoman had said; some further pointed out the Islamophobia rampant in many criticisms of Omar. “The people who go after Rep. Ilhan Omar on antisemitism allegations are the kind of Islamophobes who are willing to overlook hardcore Islamophobia,” Carl Nyberg tweeted.
Extremely this. The latest effort to twist @IlhanMN's words and impute anti-semitism to what's obviously a pretty standard observation about billionaires sharing similar political views is outrageous. It should be given no credence whatsoever. https://t.co/bXXWsDtDRG— Leah Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) November 9, 2019
Jewish Action is among the groups who don’t believe Omar’s statement was anti-Semitic, writing on Twitter, “Questioning why two billionaires might support each other is not antisemitic. People are twisting or willfully misreading @ilhanMN’s words. Weaponizing antisemitism doesn’t make our Jewish community safer, and it’s putting Muslims, immigrants, & people of color in danger.”
Jewish Voice for Peace retweeted a New York Times op-ed referencing a study that found that Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) had both been targeted by interconnected networks of Islamophobes on Twitter, at least some of which were bots.
Research "suggests that this Islamophobic and xenophobic narrative largely originated with a handful of bigoted activists and was then amplified by vast bot networks whose alleged owners never existed."https://t.co/C1LbSGGIZp— Jewish Voice for Peace (@jvplive) November 10, 2019
Ilhan Omar: *breathes*— Secular Talk (@KyleKulinski) November 10, 2019
Idiots: smh such hatred for Jews https://t.co/ivkXoLzvvE
People taking Ilhan Omar’s remarks on billionaire solidarity as anti-semitic are deploying racism and islamophobia. I’m so sad at how easily some are falling back into this, gleefully willing to other her just as the white supremacists want.— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) November 10, 2019
Omar, one of the first Muslim congresspersons, has previously been accused of anti-Semitism for commenting earlier this year that some lawmakers’ support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” and for a 2012 tweet wherein she said that “Israel has hypnotised the world.”
Omar apologized for both statements.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.