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Reps. Pressley, Levin 'Stand With One United Voice' In Denouncing Omar Attacks

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., listens to testimony by Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer, before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 27. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., listens to testimony by Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer, before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 27. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Rep. Ilhan Omar’s remarks made last month in which she described the 9/11 attackers as "some people who did something" has inflamed a new round of heated rhetoric between the Democrats and President Trump surrounding the first-year Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota.

The president drew more attention to the issue with a tweet last Friday highlighting portions of Omar’s comments alongside video of the 9/11 attacks.

Tuesday, On Point, we took a closer look at the escalating tension and war of words between President Trump and Rep. Omar.

Reps. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Andy Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, joined the show in defense of Omar.

Interview Highlights

On President Trump's tweet

Pressley: "This is a very predictable play on his part, to take tragedy and real lives and use them as a pawn to advance a larger political narrative and political goal. This is a sitting member of Congress, and this was just unconscionable and highly inappropriate and triggering for those who lost loved ones in 9/11, that tragic terrorism on American soil."

Levin: "I was just driving between events in my district, and I had to call in. I was so concerned by the opening of your discussion as if — 'Oh, it's another controversy and the president disagrees with someone.' I find that this is a mischaracterization. We've got the commander in chief attacking the safety of a public official and fanning the flames of white supremacy, where he is endangering Rep. Omar, and her staff, and also Muslim Americans and other people who look different. This is not about any argument. This is not about any policy position. This is about a level of the use of power and dividing people that goes beyond what we're used to in our democracy."

"We cannot allow our politics to be infected by this level of hate mixed with power that threatens the safety of Americans or even influences hate crimes around the world. We've got to call this out and stop it."

Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan

On how this affects the Democratic Party on a larger scale

Levin: "I represent the district where the term 'Reagan Democrat' was coined. I'm a Jewish American, and I represent an area where you know the president has may have some sway. I'm very fine to discuss any policy matter. We talk about trade and jobs and all these super important things — what is happening with this president is not an honest discussion of issues here. It's othering people in a way that I have to call out, just as a person of faith. It doesn't matter about my election or Rep. Pressley's election, or [Rep. Carolyn] Maloney, or Omar, or anybody else, or Trump. We cannot allow our politics to be infected by this level of hate mixed with power that threatens the safety of Americans or even influences hate crimes around the world. We've got to call this out and stop it."

Pressley: "I would just add that we come into our districts, I'm here for the next two weeks, in recess, and we speak at events and rallies about how immigrants and refugees are under attack by this administration with their cruel, racist and draconian policies. And we, as Democrats, come together to denounce this, collectively, on our social media platforms, at rallies, at forums, at hearings. And what I need to know, is when we go and do that for our constituents, that we mean that within our own caucus, amongst our own colleagues, as well. That we will protect immigrants and refugees, and that we will reject Islamophobia and embrace our Muslim colleagues, or any other colleagues that have been vilified and demonized by this administration."

On whether people can, in good faith, be distressed or dismayed by Rep. Omar's comments

Pressley: "The full context of the remarks, what she was speaking to — and I do believe there is more than enough merit in this and lived experienced to support this — is the rise of Islamophobia, while in no way dismissing or minimizing the impact of this tragedy. And, in fact, in our short tenure in Congress — just 100 days — to my knowledge, every event or legislative opportunity to support the 9/11 survivor community, Rep. Omar  represented has signed on to."

Alex Schroeder adapted this interview for the web.

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David Folkenflik Twitter Host, On Point
David Folkenflik is the host of On Point.

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Adam Waller is a freelance producer for On Point.

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