Editorial: Inciting violence against politicians hurts everyone


Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune/TNS

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., walking from her new office in the Longworth House Office Building to the U.S. Capitol, a few hours before being sworn in as a member of Congress.

President Donald Trump tweeted a video to his 59.7 million followers targeting Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar on Friday, accusing the Democrat of delegitimizing the 9/11 terrorists attacks. The video, containing graphic footage of the World Trade Center being destroyed, took one line of a speech she made in March entirely out of context, leading to a large amount of aggressive threats made against the congresswoman.

It is natural to disagree with politicians, but no matter how opposed one is to their values, inciting violence against them through misinformation — as Trump did with his video — is never OK.

Mixed in with the graphic 9/11 photos and footage is a clip of Omar repeating the words “some people did something” from a speech she made on civil rights and Muslims in America. Trump’s video, which was briefly pinned to his profile, features only these four words out of her entire 20-minute speech. The words are actually part of her criticism on the treatment on Muslims following the 9/11 attack.

“Some people did something,” she said in her speech. “And then all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

Due to the misleading context of the video, Omar has received multiple death threats since the release.

Since the president’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life — many directly referring or replying to the President’s video,” Omar wrote in a statement on Sunday. “Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief.”

The threats became so severe that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has requested House officials to review security measures in order to protect Omar, according to The New York Times.

Omar also cited in her statement that this kind of rhetoric isn’t unusual for the president.

“Violent crimes and other acts of hate by right-wing extremists and white nationalists are on the rise in this country and around the world,” she said. “We can no longer ignore that they are being encouraged by the occupant of the highest office in the land. Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes in the months following the rally. And assaults increase when cities host Trump rallies.”

Omar is correct in the sense that Trump has a broad history of subtly inciting violence among his followers. He’s mentioned “Second Amendment people” could act against Clinton and prevent the appointment of liberal judges. He’s also suggested his supporters “knock the hell” out of people aggressively counterprotesting. In reference to Rep. Greg Gianforte’s 2017 attack on a reporter, Trump made a remark that “any guy that can do a body slam” is his type.  

Considering his lengthy history of hateful remarks, Trump was likely aware of the violent fervor that would ensue following his tweet. Ultimately, it should not matter how adamantly Trump disagrees with Omar.  As the president of the United States, he should not abuse his power to incite violence against anyone, particularly a member of his own Congress.