Tlaib defends remarks on Holocaust and Israel, charges GOP spreading 'outright lies'

Image: U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) speaks at a rally calling on Congress
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) speaks at a rally calling on Congress to censure President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on April 30, 2019. Copyright Aaron P. Bernstein Reuters file
Copyright Aaron P. Bernstein Reuters file
By Rebecca Shabad with NBC News Politics
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The controversy was sparked by the freshman Democrat's use of the words "calming feeling" during a podcast.


WASHINGTON — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., on Monday defended recent remarks she made about the Holocaust and Israel and lashed out at President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers for "spreading outright lies" about her.

"Once again, Republican leaders and right-wing extremists are spreading outright lies to incite hate," Tlaib's communications director, Denzel McCampbell, said in a statement.

"Congresswoman Liz Cheney should be ashamed of herself for using the tragedy of the Holocaust in a transparent attempt to score political points. Her behavior cheapens our public discourse and is an insult to the Jewish community and the millions of Americans who stand opposed to the hatred being spread by Donald Trump's Republican party."

Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, had said that Democratic leaders should take action against "vile anti-Semitism in their ranks."

During an interview on Yahoo News's "Skullduggery" podcast released Friday, Tlaib was asked about her support for a one-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

Tlaib responded by noting that Holocaust Remembrance Day recently occurred and said, "There's kind of a calming feeling I always tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people's passports."

She continued, "I mean, just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time, and I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, right, and it was forced on them. And so when I think about a one-state, I think about the fact that, why couldn't we do it in a better way?"

A number of Republicans are slamming Tlaib for using the words "a calming feeling" when speaking about the Holocaust even though she appeared to say she had that feeling when thinking about a safe haven created for Jews after the Holocaust.

"No one should ever receive a 'calming feeling' when thinking about the Holocaust. Rep. Rashida Tlaib's comments are completely unacceptable and reveal a disturbing, warped view of history," Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., said on Monday.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., a Jewish lawmaker, tweeted Sunday that Tlaib "says the Holocaust gives her 'a calming feeling' calling for a 1 state solution putting Jews in the minority & out of power of their own country. This is a heart filled w darkness & how the Holocaust began in 1st place."

Israel's representative to the U.N., Ambassador Danny Danon, tweeted Sunday that Tlaib's "words are both grossly#antiSemitic and ignorant. You should take some time to learn the history before trying to rewrite it."

Tlaib responded to the backlash Sunday evening, tweeting that Republicans were twisting her comments.

Tlaib also said during the podcast: "I want a safe haven for Jews. Who doesn't want to be safe? I am humbled by the fact that it was my ancestors that had to suffer for that to happen, but I will not turn my back and allow others to hijack it and say that it's some extremist approach because they're coming from a place of... whatever it is...of division, inequality."

Trump weighed in on the controversy Monday, tweeting, "She obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people."

Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., defended Tlaib, tweeting that Trump "praised people at a neo-Nazi rally," referring to his "both sides" comment during Charlottesville.

While no Democratic lawmakers have appeared to criticize Tlaib for her remark, few are rushing to her defense. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who served under President Barack Obama, suggested that Tlaib's claim that Palestinians welcomed Jews who fled the Holocaust in Europe was incorrect.

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