Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s latest disturbing comment, this time describing the 9-11 terror attacks vaguely and dismissively as “some people did something....”, provided fodder for the New York Times to get offended. Not offended by Omar’s comment, of course, but against Donald Trump and New York Post for tough responses.
White House reporter Maggie Haberman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg tried to artificially widen Trump’s Twitter attack on Omar’s 9-11 comments into an assault on all Muslims in America on Tuesday’s front page: “Trump Rekindles Campaign Threat Of Islamic peril.” The online headline was less fair: “In Attacking Ilhan Omar, Trump Revives His Familiar Refrain Against Muslims” (click “expand”):
President Trump has often seen the political benefits of stigmatizing Muslims.
Now, with 19 months until the 2020 election, Mr. Trump is seeking to rally his base by sounding that theme again. And this time, he has a specific target: Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
Against the backdrop of graphic images of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 attacks, the video repeatedly quotes a portion of a speech Ms. Omar gave at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, describing how the group was founded after the attacks “because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” (The group was actually founded in 1994.)
Mr. Trump’s electoral success in 2016 was based partly on culture wars and the fears among an older, white voting base that the country it knew was slipping away. Like his hard line on immigration, his Muslim bashing proved polarizing among the wider electorate, but helped him keep a tight grip on his most enthusiastic voters. In the South Carolina Republican primary in February 2016, exit polls showed that 75 percent of voters favored his proposed Muslim ban.
He is betting the issue can deliver for him again. It is a strategy that will provoke criticism that he is playing on a xenophobic strain in American society, a point that Ms. Omar made in a statement Sunday evening.
Haberman and Stolberg found “Geoff Garin, a veteran Democratic strategist” who conveniently predicted “that the use of such graphic images from one of the nation’s darkest days would backfire for the president.” The Times can only hope.
On Monday, reporter Astead Herndon warned that Democratic presidential candidates had better appease Omar’s left-wing supporters in “How 2020 Democrats Responded to Trump Attacks on Omar.” Herndon kept track and reported that Senators Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker “waited until later in the weekend to offer statements of support.” Herndon said of that delay:
It did not go unnoticed.
“Black folks are watching. Muslim folks are watching. Brown folks are watching,’’ said Jennifer Epps-Addison, the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a liberal organizing group focusing on minority communities. “And we’re making our decisions about who to support in real time. When your sister is being attacked, you can’t wait to get the politics right.”
Reporter Christina Goldbaum found the anti-conservative media angle in Monday’s “New York Post Is Boycotted After Incendiary 9/11 Cover – Muslim Lawmaker Targeted for Criticism”:
The New York Post came under a barrage of criticism last week for a front page that featured a Sept. 11 photograph of the World Trade Center in flames and an isolated quote from a Muslim member of Congress, Ilhan Omar.
“Here’s your something. 2,977 people dead by terrorism,” Thursday’s boldface headline screamed.
Twitter erupted in outrage, and messages began to fly on Facebook and in WhatsApp groups for Yemeni-Americans in New York expressing fear that the newspaper cover would incite anti-Muslim violence. By Saturday morning, 10 of the most prominent Yemeni bodega owners in New York had agreed to stop selling the paper, and Yemeni taxi drivers began delivering fliers explaining the boycott to other Yemeni-owned stores.
“We support free speech, but we will not accept the incitement of violence against Muslims,” said Debbie Almontaser, the secretary of the board of directors for the merchants association.
Remember that name....
The front page suggesting that Ms. Omar had been dismissive of Sept. 11 sent chills through the city’s Muslim-American community, and leaders said they feared the imagery could stoke additional anti-Muslim sentiment.
“What The New York Post is doing is endangering the lives of American Muslims and people of color,” Ms. Almontaser said.
Almontaser has been celebrated by the Times before -- during a controversy about her leadership of an Arabic school in Brooklyn. Almontaser was forced to resign as principal after defending the use of "Intifada NYC" as a slogan on T-shirts sold by a related activist group. That 2008 controversy also marked an instance of The Times bashing its more conservative tabloid rival The Post for covering news that the liberal Times doesn’t wish to draw attention to.