Sen. Rand Paul offers Rep. Ilhan Omar a trip back to Somalia to 'appreciate America more'

Phillip M. Bailey

Republican Sen. Rand Paul is offering to buy Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar a plane ticket to visit her home country of Somalia to learn to be more grateful for living in the United States.

Omar is one of four congresswomen — known as "The Squad" — who President Donald Trump told to “go back" to their ancestors' countries instead of criticizing U.S. policies.

A few days later, Trump held a campaign rally in North Carolina where the crowd chanted "send her back" when the president spoke of Omar, a Somalian refugee who came to the U.S. as a child.

Trump condemned the chant when later asked by reporters but then called those who attended the rally "patriots" in subsequent comments.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., the first Somali-American elected to Congress who is a frequent target of President Donald Trump, speaks as she introduces the Zero Waste Act that creates a federal grant program to help local governments invest in waste reduction initiatives, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 25, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

"I'm not saying we forcibly send her anywhere," Paul said in an interview last week with Breitbart News, a conservative-leaning outlet. "I’m willing to contribute to buy her a ticket to go visit Somalia. I think she can look and maybe learn a little bit about the disaster that is Somalia."

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The Kentucky Republican then criticized the East African country for having "no capitalism" or "God-given rights" under in a constitution. He said Omar "might come back and appreciate America more" after visiting Somalia.

An Omar spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Omar said in a recent op-ed to the New York Times that the "send her back" chant "will be a defining moment in American history." She added that this marks a "fight for the soul of our nation."

“Throughout history, demagogues have used state power to target minority communities and political enemies, often culminating in state violence,” Omar said in the op-ed. "Today, we face that threat in our own country, where the president of the United States is using the influence of our highest office to mount racist attacks on communities across the land.”

Paul, who ran against Trump for president in 2016, has defended the president against charges of racism in the past.

In this Sept. 26, 2018, file photo Sen. Rand Paul leaves a meeting of Senate Republicans with Vice President Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington.

A year ago, when Trump reportedly referred to African nations as "s---hole countries" Kentucky's junior senator said the comments weren't constructive, but that it was "unfair" to label the president a racist.

Paul has a budding relationship with the president and was recently tapped to help with negotiations with Iran. He has defended Trump over the tweets aimed at the congresswomen, which include Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

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The senator told Breitbart that in the city of Bowling Green, where he lives, there are many immigrants and refugees who are great citizens, but that those people are thankful to be in America.

"Then I hear Rep. Omar say, 'Oh, America is a terrible place, there is no justice here,'" Paul said. “Well, she came here and we fed her, we clothed her, she got welfare, she got school, she got healthcare, and then, lo and behold, she has the honor of actually winning a seat in Congress, and she says we’re a terrible country? I think that’s about as ungrateful as you can get."

Paul's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or pbailey@courierjournal.com. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/philb.


This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Rand Paul offers 'ungrateful' Ilhan Omar a trip back to Somalia