WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump did not wish any harm in his Twitter post criticizing Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments on the 9/11 attacks, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Sunday.
“Certainly the president is wishing no ill will, certainly not violence towards anyone,” Sanders told ABC News’ “This Week” show. “But the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her, not only one-time, but history of anti-Semitic comments,” she said.
Lawmakers from Trump’s Republican Party have accused Omar of minimizing the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks by al Qaeda on the United States that killed almost 3,000 people, while critics of the president say he took Omar’s words out of context in order to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted a video suggesting that Omar, a U.S. representative from Minnesota, had been dismissive of the 9/11 attacks that destroyed New York’s World Trade Center and struck the Pentagon outside Washington. The video spliced news footage of 9/11 with a clip from a speech Omar gave last month in which she described the attack as “some people did something.”
Several prominent Democrats, including presidential candidates Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, condemned Trump’s tweet, saying he was inciting racism and violence toward Omar with the video. Omar has said she has been the target of islamophobic death threats.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Sunday she had spoken with the sergeant-at-arms, who is responsible for safety in Congress, to ensure that Capitol Hill Police were conducting a security assessment to safeguard Omar, her family and her staff.
“The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger. President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video,” Pelosi said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Pelosi’s statement.
In her speech before a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, Omar said Muslims had “lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.”
Sarah Sanders called Omar’s comments “disgraceful and unbefitting,” and questioned what she saw as lack of action from Democrats on the issue. “I think it’s a good thing that the president is calling her out for those comments and the big question is why aren’t the Democrats doing it,” she said.
Omar’s comments began circulating in media outlets last week, leading critics to question her loyalty to the United States. Responding in a tweet, Omar said the commentary amounted to “dangerous incitement,” adding: “My love and commitment to our country and that of my colleagues should never be in question.”
Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Michelle Price, Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney
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