Fact check: Trump says Rep. Omar 'proud' of al Qaeda

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By Jane C. Timm  with NBC News Politics
Image: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., flanked by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., left, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., responds to remarks by President Donald Trump during a news conference at the Capitol on July 15, 2019.   -   Copyright  J. Scott Applewhite AP

President Donald Trump made a baseless claim and mischaracterized the remarks of Rep. Ilhan Omar during a campaign rally Wednesday night, painting the Minnesota Democrat as a fan of the terrorist group al Qaeda.

"You say al Qaeda, it makes you proud, al Qaeda makes you proud!" Trump said of Omar. "You don't speak that way about America."

Omar, a Somali-American who became the first representative to wear a hijab, is a one of four freshman Democratic representatives who refer to themselves as "the Squad" and have been harshly critical of the president.

Trump has made the group of liberal lawmakers a target of his attacks as he campaigns for reelection, and spent a significant amount of time remarking on them at his rally in Greenville, North Carolina.

The attack came just hours after some House Democrats supported a failed impeachment pushin the House over what the chamber had condemned a day earlieras Trump's "racist comments" about the Minnesota Democrat and her three other liberal colleagues of color.

There is no evidence that Omar has said the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attack makes her proud, and fact checkers have searched high and lowfor proof. Conservative outlets have pointedto a 2013 interview Omar gave in whichshe condemned terrorism broadly but argued that Muslim communities should not be blamed for the acts of radicalized individuals, but nowhere in the interview does she express support for terrorists.

"And at a press conference just this week, when asked whether she supported al Qaeda, that's our enemy — that's our enemy," Trump said in his attack Wednesday. "She refused to answer. She didn't want to give an answer to that question."

But here's what Omar said at a news conference earlier this week about Trump's repeated accusations that she is supportive of al Qaeda: "I will not dignify it with an answer."

She continued: "I do not expect every time there is a white supremacist who attacks, or there is a white man who kills in a school or in a movie theater or in a mosque or in a synagogue, I don't expect my white community members to respond on whether they love that person or not. And so I think it is beyond time … to ask Muslims to condemn terrorists."

Omar is answering the question, although perhaps not in a way that Trump would have liked.

At the rally on Wednesday, Trump also claimed "Rep. Omar blamed the United States for the terrorist attacks on our country, saying that terrorism is a reaction to our involvement in other peoples' affairs."

This too is a mischaracterization of the 2013 PBS interview, in which she and host Ahmet Tharwat mused that radicalization and terrorism are a reaction to war and invasion. American involvement in "other countries affairs," Omar asserted, fuels radicalization. The conversation was a broader discussion on terrorism, and the remark is hardly a statement of blame.

"Omar minimized the September 11th attacks on our homeland, saying "some people did something," Trump also said.

Omar was widely criticized for saying "some people did something" in comments about 9/11 terrorist attacks and Muslim civil rights at a conference in March. While speaking at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles, Omar discussed how Muslim Americans had their constitutional rights and freedoms infringed upon following the 9/11 attacks, making a comment that some saw as minimizing the terrorist act.

"Here's the truth. Far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen. And, frankly, I'm tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it," Omar said. "CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties," she said.

CAIR wasn't founded after 9/11; it was founded in 1994. What's less clear is whether Omar is actually diminishing the responsibility of al Qaeda in these remarks.