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Rep. Liz Cheney blasts House Democrats for 'enabling' anti-Semitic comments

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Image: Rep. Liz Cheney speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet The Press" on March 10
Rep. Liz Cheney speaks to Chuck Todd on "Meet The Press" on March 10, 2019. -
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William B. Plowman NBC News
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WASHINGTON — Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney Sunday accused Democrats of "enabling" anti-Semitism for failing to explicitly condemn controversial comments by a freshman Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar in a recent congressional vote.

Cheney, the third-ranking GOP leader in the House, made made her comments during an interview with "Meet the Press" days after the House passed a broad condemnation of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other instances of hate, legislation that Cheney and some others criticized for not directly singling out Omar.

"It was really clearly an effort to actually protect Ilhan Omar, to cover up her bigotry and anti-Semitism by refusing to name her," said Cheney, who helped lead the charge within her own party to sideline controversial Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King from House committees.

"It is absolutely shameful that Nancy Pelosi and Leader Hoyer and the Democratic leaders will not put her name in a resolution on the floor and condemn her remarks and remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee," Cheney said. "Those people who won't condemn it are enabling it."

Cheney's remarks came after a week in which the debate over Omar's comments exposed deep divisions within the Democratic caucus.

House Democrats initially agreed to vote on a bill explicitly condemning anti-Semitism after Omar questioned the "the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country" in reference to Israel, comments that were panned by a bipartisan chorus for parroting the anti-Semitic trope about Jews having a dual loyalty.

The House had already taken a vote last month specifically condemning anti-Semitism in response to other comments by Omar.

But Omar's defenders in the caucus, particularly among progressives, pushed back against the plan and argued the House needed to address other instances of hate too, particularly after a poster was set up in the West Virginia capitol building linking Omar to the 9/11 attacks.

They questioned whether Omar is being unfairly targeted because of her religion — she is a Muslim — and argued that Republicans are being hypocritical because they've taken stronger opposition to the freshman congresswoman's comments than they have to President Trump's own controversial comments on a larger stage, particularly the idea that blame for the death of a counter-protester during a Virginia white nationalist march in 2017 laid on "both sides" and that there were "fine people" among the protesters.

Cheney joined with 22 other Republicans to vote against the resolution, arguing that while she opposes all hate, the resolution was too divorced from the specific controversy over Omar's comments.

Omar defended her comment earlier this month by arguing that being opposed to the current Israeli government's policies "is not the same as being anti-Semitic" and that she had apologized for previous controversial comments.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that she felt Omar's "words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude, but that she didn't have a full appreciation of how they landed on other people, where these words have a history and a cultural impact that may have been unknown."

Asked about Democratic divides, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown pointed to how Republicans respond to the president.

"President Trump continues to betray workers and utters racist, anti-Semitic rhetoric and nobody in their party calls him out," he said in a separate interview with "Meet the Press."

"They don't have divisions. They've all followed his racist actions and betrayal of workers — they follow it like lemmings of the cliff."

Cheney did not directly answer when asked whether Trump has done enough to combat hate and anti-Semitism, saying, "I don't believe this is right or left. I think this is an issue where all of us should come together."

"We know what happens when people remain silent, every single one of us at all times must stand against it," she said.