In a recently resurfaced February 2018 interview with Al Jazeera, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) called out the hypocrisy of President Donald Trump and other conservatives in highlighting the dangers of Islamic extremism while ignoring the resurgent danger of far-right extremism.
A deceptively edited version of that video, intended to paint Omar as biased against white men, is now making the rounds in conservative circles, and was even shared by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (FL).
“I would say our country should be more fearful of white men across our country, because they are actually causing most of the deaths within this country,” Omar said at around the 6-minute mark in the original 10-minute interview, after being asked to address concerns over violent attacks perpetrated by “jihadist” extremists. “So if fear was the driving force of policies to keep America safe — Americans safe inside of this country — we should be profiling, monitoring and creating policies to fight the radicalization of white men.”
This nuance, however, was lost in the 41-second, selectively edited version of that clip, which went viral on Twitter on Wednesday with more than 2 million views. In that version, the middle section of Omar’s comments — “So if fear was the driving force of policies to keep America safe — Americans safe inside of this country” — was removed, making it sound as if Omar was calling for the surveillance of white men more broadly.
The edited clip was promptly picked up by a number of conservative outlets, including The Daily Wire and Fox News, and was also pushed by Republicans like Rubio, who tweeted sarcastically, “I am sure the media will now hound every Democrat to denounce this statement as racist. Right?”
While one could argue that Omar’s original point was poorly phrased, the statistics back her up.
The Anti-Defamation League reported in January this year that, in 2018, far-right extremists were responsible for every extremist-related murder in the United States bar one. Since Trump’s election, there has also been an uptick in the number of hate crimes, as well as the number of attacks committed by far-right extremists in comparison to Islamist or left-wing extremists.
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned earlier this week that the majority of domestic terror cases the Bureau had investigated were “motivated by some version of what you call white supremacist violence.”
It’s not the first time conservatives have used selectively edited or manufactured quotes to fuel hatred for “The Squad,” a group of four congresswomen of color — Reps. Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — who have all spoken out against Trump’s most racist or anti-immigrant policies.
Last week, for instance, Trump falsely accused Ocasio-Cortez of describing “our country and our people” as “garbage.” In reality, the New York congresswoman had said in a SXSW interview in March that her policy ideas “sound radical compared to where we are. But where we are is not a good thing. This idea of 10% better from garbage shouldn’t be what we settle for. It feels like moderate is not a stance, it’s just an attitude toward life of like, ‘meh.’”
The swamp of misinformation that continues to surround the four freshman lawmakers is edging perilously close to having some very real world consequences. Last week, two Gretna, Louisiana, police officers were fired after one wrote on Facebook that Ocasio-Cortez “needs a round, and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve” as a bartender. The second officer liked the post. Both were responding to a fake quote from Ocasio-Cortez which read, “We pay soldiers too much.” (She said no such thing.)
Both officers were promptly fired and the Gretna police chief, Arthur Lawson, expressed confusion over why both officers commented on the story despite it clearly being marked as “false” on Facebook.
“You see in social media where people don’t read what they’re reading and they don’t comprehend what they’re reading,” Lawson said. “They take a caption and react, read a headline and react to it. It’s sad but it’s something we just can’t tolerate.”