In recent weeks, the narrow Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to remove Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee for what embattled House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said were her past anti-Semitic statements. McCarthy had earlier purged California Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee. While there were dishonest reasons cited for these removals, it’s clear that this was yet another case of partisan vengeance following the Democrats’ 2021 removal of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from their committees.
Greene was removed for trafficking in racism, anti-Semitism and baseless conspiracy theories, along with her support for campaign ads and online comments encouraging violence against Democratic officials prior to taking office. Democrats removed Gosar for sharing a violent animated video targeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Joe Biden.
Republicans’ decision to remove metal detectors that stood outside the House chamber and allow guns into committee rooms has put many legislators on edge, as has McCarthy’s plan to hold the debt ceiling hostage to force cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Svante Myrick, president of People for the American Way who formerly served 10 years as the mayor of Ithaca, New York. Here, he discusses his views on the House GOP vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the symbolism of hatred and bigotry that action carries.
SVANTE MYRICK: There’s a poll from CNN last week that says that 50 percent of Republicans believe that the new House majority, the Republican majority in the House, is not focused on issues that are important to Americans. That’s 50 percent of Republicans believe that. And of course, the majority of Democrats and independents see it, and independents see it, that they’re not concerned about our families, about our economy.
They’re not concerned with fixing the real problems that we do have in this country. Climate change and out of control, gun violence and snagged supply chains. They are focused on political retribution and passing non-binding resolutions denouncing socialism. It is a — and I want to be careful here, I do want to be careful here because it’s not the entire party.
What we’re talking about here is a group of Republicans who have taken over the House, a small group of Republicans, who, by asserting their dominance over Kevin McCarthy, will now control the agenda for these next two years. That is so far out of the mainstream of even their own party that it’s really shameful for those of us who have been in government and care about good governance and want to solve people’s problems, to know that for the next two years, this Republican majority is not going to be focused on solving our problems. Very frustrating.
SCOTT HARRIS: Absolutely. Let’s focus on Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. It seems from her perspective and many people across the country, she was targeted because she’s Muslim, because she’s a woman, because she’s black and represents what many Republicans demonize over many decades. What do you think about her expulsion from the Foreign Affairs Committee? And I should just say that what they’ve said in public as to their reasoning is that she had apologized for some remarks years ago where she was talking about the actions of AIPAC, the Israeli U.S. Public Affairs Committee that lobbies here in the United States on behalf of Israel.
But it’s interesting that many Republicans have said far worse things in terms of their anti-Semitism and spoken at racist, white supremacist, even neo-Nazi rallies. Think about Marjorie Taylor Greene as one of those, but she’s been rewarded for her extremist positions. Anyway, I go on and on. Why don’t you give us your take on Ilhan Omar?
SVANTE MYRICK: I happen to know Ilhan. I’ve known her for years. One of the things we do at People for the American Way is we run a program for young elected officials, people who are elected under the age of 35 and are progressive anywhere in the country. And she and I were both — I was 20 years old when I was elected to the city council, 24 when I was elected mayor.
She was in her 20s when she was elected to the state government in Minnesota. And she is the kindest, smartest embodiment of the American dream. She came here and built not only a life for herself, but a voice for a community and is a very grounded, very humble leader.
See the caricature that they tried to create of her. Why? Because she wears a hijab. Because she is a black woman. Because she is a Muslim. It is outright bigotry. The difference between who she is and who they pretend she is, is a chasm so wide it can only be explained by bigotry.
And I say this as somebody who my ties to the Jewish community are deep and fighting against anti-Semitism, something I’ve done my entire professional life. If for even a moment I thought that Ilhan was anti-Semitic, I would say so. But I don’t believe she is. She comes from a very specific background. And she advocates for a community. But there is no hatred inside of her and they know it.
This caucus who is cheering is Kanye West and Donald Trump, their leader, who met with an out-and-out Nazi over a Thanksgiving dinner in Nick Fuentes. The same caucus, who is applauding that is now pretending, clutching their pearls, pretending that one badly worded tweet about AIPAC financial influence is punishable by removal from a committee.
I mean, this really is the worst kind of red scare-mongering. This is, you know, McCarthyism in the ’50s and the shame of it all, is they truly have no shame. At long last they truly, truly have no shame.
And we are not going to forget it. I can tell you that the the million-plus members of the People for the American Way, the voters of Minnesota and voters across the country are going to remember this. And it will be, I hope, one of the many things that costs this irresponsible House majority the speakership two years from now in 2024.
For more information, visit People For The American Way at pfaw.org and Right-Wing Watch at rightwingwatch.
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Svante Myrick (26:38) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
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