After Fox News host Jeanine Pirro questioned whether Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar held anti-Constitutional beliefs due to her religion, the network quickly — and sharply — rebuked her amid criticism from her network colleagues.
The controversy was set off by the opening statement of Pirro’s Saturday night show. In the segment, she recapped recent allegations of anti-Semitism against Omar, a freshman representative from Minnesota and former Somali refugee who is a detractor of Israel’s conservative government.
According to her website, Omar advocates “a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis” while calling for “uplift[ing] the voices of Palestinians demanding an end to the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and end the siege of Gaza.”
One of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress, Omar is an outspoken progressive whose politics and personal story have drawn wide notice. At the same time, defenders note, she has been subject to racism and Islamophobia that does not always receive the same attention as her positions on Israel and its conflict with Palestine.
Omar, 37, implied in a tweet last month that support for Israel was based on money — an anti-Semitic trope which she said was unintentionally invoked. “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. … We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize,” she said then.
“At the same time,” she continued, “I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”
In a much earlier tweet, from 2012, Omar wrote that Israel had “hypnotized the world.” In January, she acknowledged this was “unknowingly” offensive.
But, she tweeted, “It is important to distinguish between criticizing a military action by a government and attacking a particular people of faith. I will not shy away of criticism of any government when I see injustice.”
President Trump was right when he said the democrat party is now the anti-Israel party. Don’t forget Nancy, history has proven over and over when you appease to anti-Semitic sentiment, the worst happens. #OpeningStatement pic.twitter.com/vrnzhcu95o— Jeanine Pirro (@JudgeJeanine) March 10, 2019
It was against this backdrop that Pirro, 67, during the opening of her Saturday show, attacked Omar as an “unrepentant” and hateful anti-Semite. But such sentiments were not because Omar was a Democratic politician, she said.
“If it’s not rooted in the party, where is she getting it from?” Pirro said. “Think about it: Omar wears a hijab, which according to the Quran … tells women to cover so they won’t get molested. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law [or Islamic law], which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?”
Her remarks were quickly denounced.
“Can you stop spreading this false narrative that somehow Muslims hate America or women who wear a hijab aren’t American enough?” Fox News associate producer Hufsa Kamal tweeted. “You have Muslims working at the same network you do, including myself.”
In a statement, the network said: “We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar. They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”
In a statement of her own, Pirro said her “intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution.”
“I’ve seen a lot of comments about my opening statement from Saturday night’s show and I did not call Rep. Omar un-American. … I invite Rep. Omar to come on my show any time to discuss all of the important issues facing America today,” Pirro said.
In a brief tweet on Monday, Omar shared her gratitude with Fox News for its response.
“Thank you, @FoxNews,” she wrote. “No one’s commitment to our constitution should be questioned because of their faith or country of birth.”