The backlash over Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s repeated anti-Semitic comments is now so problematic that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House leadership feel the need to hold a vote on Wednesday to give Democrats the chance to reject the kind of anti-Semitism Omar has embraced.
But while the party leadership is speaking out–Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, denounced her “vile, anti-Semitic slur” — not a single member of the New Hampshire delegation has said a word.
Of particular note is the silence of Rep. Annie Kuster, who reportedly has a close relationship with her colleague from Minnesota.
The current controversy is just Rep. Omar’s latest incident of anti-Semitic rhetoric. In 2012 she tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” After being called out over this reiteration of the “sinister Jews” smear earlier this year, Omar apologized.
Just days after that apology, she was forced to issue another, “unequivocal apology,” for asserting that Israel and its Jewish allies were buying support from Americans (“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar tweeted). “Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech, but Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes is deeply offensive,” Speaker Pelosi said at the time.
Now she’s in hot water for her “allegiance to a foreign country” comment, echoing the anti-Semitic suggestion that Jews and/or supporters of Israel have divided allegiances and can’t truly be loyal to America. It’s gotten so bad that even the Democrat-friendly Anti-Defamation League has written Speaker Pelosi asking her to act.
“We urge you and your colleagues to send the unambiguous message that the United States Congress is no place for hate,” wrote the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt.
One person who hasn’t sent an “unambiguous message,” however, is Rep. Annie Kuster.
In the past, Kuster has been quick to condemn “bigotry and anti-Semitism.” When the Trump Department of Justice announced a new push to promote the reporting of hate crimes, Kuster said, “No one should be attacked because of their religion or how they worship… We must continue promoting values of inclusivity and acceptance that we hold dear as Americans.”
Last August, on the anniversary of the Charlottesville white supremacist march, Kuster tweeted that we must “reject hatred and intolerance in all its forms.”
In 2016, she signed a letter calling for President-elect Trump to keep campaign advisor Steve Bannon out of the White House in part because as CEO of Breitbart News, “Mr. Bannon repeatedly and aggressively pushed stories that promote anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and racism.” In an interview about her decision to sign the letter, Kuster complained that “more Republicans aren’t speaking out” about Bannon. Now she’s the one not speaking out.
Kuster has yet to comment on a single one of the anti-Semitic comments by her colleague. Instead, Kuster has become part of the same progressive political posse as Rep. Omar, along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). They’re so closely identified, in fact, that when an artistic fan created a pantheon of progressive women in the current Congress out of Legos, Kuster was included in the group.
Far from denouncing Rep. Omar, Reps. Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez have been defending her. “She is being targeted just like many civil rights icons before us who spoke out about oppressive policies,” Rep. Tlaib said of Omar.
Does Rep. Kuster agree? Perhaps Rep. Kuster doesn’t object to Rep. Omar’s observations about Israel and the Jews. Or maybe Rep. Kuster agrees with the dozen or so Jewish groups calling for Omar to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her anti-Semitic stance? We don’t know: Kuster’s office declined repeated requests for comment.
But on Wednesday, Kuster will have to vote–one way or the other.