Rep. Ilhan Omar defends her controversial World Trade Center remarks: '9/11 was an attack on all Americans'

Kadia Tubman

Rep. Ilhan Omar responded to criticism from a 9/11 victim’s son, who, during a memorial reading of victims’ names at Ground Zero last week, called out the freshman congresswoman for past remarks she made about the terrorist attacks.

“9/11 was an attack on all Americans,” said Omar, D-Minn., on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It was an attack on all of us, and I certainly could not understand the weight of the pain that the families of the victims of 9/11 must feel, but I think it’s important for us to make sure that we are not forgetting the aftermath of 9/11,” she added.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., participates in a panel discussion during the Muslim Collective For Equitable Democracy Conference and Presidential Forum. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Many Americans found themselves now having their civil rights stripped from them, and so what I was speaking to was that as a Muslim, not only was I suffering as an American who was attacked on that day, but the next day I woke up as my fellow Americans were now treating me as suspect.”

On the 18th anniversary of 9/11, Nicholas Haros Jr., whose mother died in the World Trade Center, wore a shirt emblazoned with the words “Some people did something,” a reference to remarks Omar made in March at a Council on American-Islamic Relations fundraiser. She said the organization “was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

The New York Post lambasted her “some people did something” phrasing, and President Trump tweeted a video of Omar’s remarks spliced together with footage of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“On that day 19 Islamic terrorists, members of al-Qaida, killed over 3,000 people and caused billions of dollars of economic damage,” Haros said during his speech. “Is that clear?”

He continued: “I was attacked. Your relatives and friends were attacked. Our constitutional freedoms were attacked, and our nation’s founding on Judeo-Christian principles was attacked. That’s what some people did. Got that now?”

Nicholas Haros, who lost his mother, Frances, in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, wears a shirt critical of Rep. Ilhan Omar's comments while reading names at the National September 11 Memorial on September 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In addition to Omar, a former refugee from Somalia, a predominantly Muslim country in East Africa, Haros directed his comments at “the squad” of freshmen congresswomen of color who have drawn the ire of President Trump in recent months. The group includes Omar and Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

“We are here today, congresswoman, to tell you and the squad just who did what to whom,” he said. “Show respect in honoring them, please.”

When asked by CBS’s Margaret Brennan if she has struggled “to be less of an activist and try to be a legislator,” Omar said she didn’t think so.

“Some people would say, ‘Ilhan, you should speak a certain way. Ilhan, you should do something a certain way,’ and I believe that’s contradictory to the purpose of my existence in this space,” she responded. “My constituents sent me to make sure that I was bringing in a conversation that others weren’t having, that I was speaking for people who have felt voiceless for a long time.”

She added: “It's really important for us to recognize that it's a new Congress. It's a diverse Congress, and we're not only diverse in our race or ethnicity or religion, but we are also diverse in our perspective, in our pain and our struggles, and in the hopes and dreams that we have, and the kind of America that we want to shape for all of us.”


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