Fact Check: Ilhan Omar Did Not Praise Al-Qaeda, But Minimized It, Laughed, Compared to U.S. Army

Ilhan Omar 2013 (Bel Ahdan / Screenshot / YouTube)
Ilhan Omar 2013 (Bel Ahdan / Screenshot / YouTube)

On Monday, President Donald Trump defended his criticisms of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and the far-left “Squad,” and claimed that Omar had praised Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks.

Trump said:

I mean, I look at the one — I look at Omar — I don’t know, I never met her.  I hear the way she talks about al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda has killed many Americans.  She said, “You can hold your chest out, you can — when I think of America…huh…when I think of al Qaeda, I can hold my chest out.”  When she talked about the World Trade Center being knocked down, “Some people.”  You remember the famous “some people.”  These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country.

So when — when I hear people speaking about how wonderful al Qaeda is, when I hear people talking about “some people” — “some” people with the World Trade Center — “some people”?  No, not “some people.”  Much more than “some people.”

And politicians can’t be afraid to take them on.  A politician that hears somebody, where we’re at war with al Qaeda, and sees somebody talking about how great al Qaeda is — pick out her statement — that was Omar.  How great al Qaeda is — when you hear that — and we’re losing great soldiers to al Qaeda.

When you see the World Trade Center gets knocked down, and you see the statements made about the World Trade Center — all the death and destruction — I’ll tell you what: I’m not happy with them.

Omar had an opportunity to clear the air, but declined to condemn Al Qaeda (or communism, another alleged association) at the “Squad” press conference on Monday, saying, “I will not dignify [the claim] with an answer.”

The president appears to have misinterpreted comments Omar made in 2013, in a video that emerged nearly six months ago (and which was ignored by the mainstream media until now, when it could be used to dispute Trump).

As Breitbart News noted in February, the most shocking claim Omar made in the interview with a local Minnesota television program was that U.S. foreign policy was responsible for acts of terrorism such as the Westgate shopping mall terror attack in Nairobi, Kenya, by the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab, who killed 71 people, mostly civilians.

Omar also drew a moral equivalence between radical Islamic terror and “the violence that is done [by] the West,” which she said that the U.S. and other countries had “legitimized.” However, Omar did not actually endorse acts of radical Islamic terror, or praise Al Qaeda or other organizations.

Instead, she complained that American Muslims were expected to denounce those acts of terror, and that the Arabic names of terror groups were emphasized.

In the course of that complaint, she described a class on terrorism that she took at college. Laughing, she described the posture of her professor when he would say the Arabic names of terror groups, saying that “every time the professor said, ‘Al Qaeda,’ he, sort of, like, his shoulders went up.” He did not do the same when describing “the Army,” she said, suggesting the professor was prejudiced.

That appears to be the origin of President Trump’s distorted quote that she said, “When I think of al Qaeda, I can hold my chest out.”

Omar’s remarks can be seen in the video below at 17:00:

Trump was on firmer ground when he criticized Omar’s recent comments about the 9/11 attacks.

In a speech in March to the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Omar complained about prejudice against Muslims. She said: “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognize that some people did something, and then all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

The phrase “some people did something” was widely interpreted as downplaying the severity of the attacks, as well as the role of radical Islam as the motivation.

CAIR itself has a disturbing record on radical Islam — particularly in Southern California. As Breitbart News noted:

In 2007-8, CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. That case, in turn, led the FBI to discontinue its work with the organization. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that the government “produced ample evidence to establish” the ties of CAIR with Hamas, the Palestinian terror organization. The United Arab Emirates labeled CAIR a terrorist organization in 2014 (a decision that the Obama administration opposed).

In 2015, CAIR’s Los Angeles director suggested that the U.S. was partly to blame for the San Bernardino terror attack, in which 14 people were killed, due to American foreign policy. CAIR also offered legal assistance to the family of the terrorists who carried out the attack.

Still, minimizing or excusing radical Islamic terror is different — morally and factually — from supporting it outright.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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