Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., harshly criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday for his tepid response to anti-Muslim remarks made by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.
"McCarthy is a liar and a coward. He doesn't have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member of his conference," Omar said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"We have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact that their party, right now, is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry," she continued.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar calls House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy "a liar and a coward" for not publicly condemning GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert's anti-Muslim comments about Omar. https://t.co/bpBmBU1anQ #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/1eXkETU3Cx
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) December 5, 2021
Omar was responding to McCarthy's answer after being asked on Friday why he didn't forcefully condemn Boebert's comments In a video clip that emerged last month, which the Colorado lawmaker on stage comparing Omar to a terrorist. ”Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,” Boebert said about a time she allegedly shared an elevator with Omar. (Omar denies the incident ever happened.) Boebert also called Omar a member of the "jihad squad."
More than 40 House Democrats have called on Boebert to be stripped of her committee assignments, saying in a joint letter last week that there "must be consequences when Members of Congress demonize an entire religion and promote hate from their positions of public trust." A handful of GOP lawmakers have also condemned Boebert.
On Friday, though, McCarthy claimed that Boebert had already resolved the issue.
"Let me be very clear. This party is for anyone and everyone who craves freedom, that supports religious liberty," the House GOP leader said. "She apologized publicly. She apologized personally," McCarthy said.
But Boebert didn't issue a full public apology. She had tweeted that she apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended,” without mentioning Omar. And by both lawmakers' accounts, their phone call afterward went awry, with Omar asking for a direct public apology, being rebuffed and hanging up on Boebert.
"Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments," Omar said in a statement after the phone call. "She instead doubled down on her rhetoric, and I decided to end the unproductive phone call."
Boebert offered more incendiary rhetoric in her own when recounting of the phone call.
"Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is part of 'cancel culture 101,' and a pillar of the Democrat Party. Make no mistake, I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can't say the same thing," Boebert said in an Instagram video.
How McCarthy has handled this controversy sheds light on his effort to become the next House speaker if Republicans retake control of the chamber next year. He has largely avoided directly criticizing far-right members of his caucus who spark firestorms with their attacks on Democrats.
McCarthy responded similarly to a recent controversy in which Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., posted an animated video depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and swinging a sword at President Biden. Democrats stripped Gosar of his committee assignments; McCarthy said he would restore them as speaker.