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Nancy Pelosi: Ilhan Omar was accidentally anti-Semitic because she 'doesn't understand' the words she was using

The House speaker did not try to deny that the statements themselves were anti-Semitic

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she thinks Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) made anti-Semitic comments only because she "has a different experience in the use of words" and "doesn't understand" their meaning.

What did Omar say?

Omar has been criticized, including by top Democrats in Congress, for a series of tweets and statements in which she accused Israel of buying off members of Congress and said that pro-Israel members of have an "allegiance" to Israel. She also said that she was "fearful" that her Jewish colleagues took issue with her statements only because she is a Muslim.

House Democrats were forced to draft a resolution condemning Omar's comments. After inter-party arguing where some Democrats accused their leadership of picking on Omar, the final version of the resolution did not mention Omar and condemned several other forms of hate, including anti-Muslim discrimination, white nationalism, "and other forms of bigotry."

The resolution passed the House 407-23 on Thursday. Twenty-three Republicans voted against it, with some of them, like Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, saying that they did so because they thought the final version "watered down" the response to Omar's anti-Semitic comments.

In addition to the resolution, Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders had issued a statement in February which called Omar's "anti-Semitic tropes" and "prejudicial accusations" "deeply offensive."

What did Pelosi say now?

Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Economic Club on Friday, Pelosi defended the resolution:

I don't think it watered down the anti-Semitic language at all. I think it strengthened it. And it isn't about anybody who hates anybody. It's about people who act upon their hatred. And that's what we have no place for — against anyone — in our country, and it is part of our values that we convey to the rest of the world.

She talked about her discussions with European leaders about fighting anti-Semitism in their respective countries. Then she dismissed Omar's comments — not by trying to argue that they were not anti-Semitic, but rather by arguing that Omar had no idea what her own words meant.

"The incident that happened," Pelosi said, referring to Omar's comments, "I don't think our colleague is anti-Semitic. I think she has a different experience in the use of words, doesn't understand that some of them are fraught with meaning, that she didn't realize. But nonetheless, that we had to address."

She said that Democratic leaders had thought that it would be "appropriate" to address multiple forms of hate in a single resolution instead of just addressing anti-Semitism.

This sentiment is an echo of what Pelosi said Thursday, when she told reporters that she didn't think "the congresswoman perhaps appreciated the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don't believe it was intended in an anti-Semitic way."

One last thing…
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