Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) introduced a resolution to censure Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) over comments she made at an event celebrating an election in Somalia, where she was born, on Jan. 27. There’s one big problem: Omar didn’t make the comments presented in the resolution.
The comments in question stem from a speech Omar gave at an event in Minneapolis, which has a sizable Somali immigration population, celebrating a regional election in Somalia. Omar is a Somali immigrant whose family received asylum in the U.S. in 1995 when she was around 13 years old. In her speech, she discussed an important issue for Somalis, the breakaway region of Somaliland, which Ethiopia has recognized as a separate nation.
Greene’s resolution alleges that Omar violated her oath as a member of Congress “to defend and protect the United States” by declaring allegiance to Somalia in her comments.
“The U.S. government will do only what Somalians in the U.S. tell them to do. They will do what we want and nothing else. They must follow our orders, and that is how we will safeguard the interest of Somalia,” the resolution claims that Omar said. “For as long as I am in Congress, Somalia will never be in danger. Its waters will not be waters will not be stolen by Ethiopia. Sleep in comfort knowing I am here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the U.S. system.”
But Omar did not say these things. Her speech was given in Somali, and a translation containing the quotes Greene cites later circulated on conservative social media accounts before the conservative news site Alpha News picked it up. The Alpha News article states that the site “has not independently verified the accuracy of the translation.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) faces a censure resolution for comments she didn't make.
Conservatives, including House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), called for Omar to resign from Congress for violating her oath of office.
The Minnesota Reformer, a local news site, however, employed two independent translations, including one from a “federally certified court interpreter,” to show that Omar’s translated comments that spread on conservative social media accounts were wrong.
Instead of stating, “The U.S. government will do only what Somalians in the U.S. tell them to do. They will do what we want and nothing else. They must follow our orders, and that is how we will safeguard the interest of Somalia,” the Minnesota Reformer’s accurate translation shows that Omar said.
“When I heard that people who call themselves Somalis signed an agreement with Ethiopia, many people reached out to me and said I needed to talk to the U.S. government,” Omar said. “They asked, ‘What would the U.S. government do?’ My answer was that the U.S. government will do what we tell the U.S. government to do. That is the confidence we need to have as Somalis.”
This is a statement of the potential political power of Somali Americans to affect U.S. policy. Such policy influence is common among American communities of various ethnicities or immigrant backgrounds, whether it be Jewish-American influence on Israel, Irish-American support for Ireland, Cuban-American opposition to the Cuban government, and so on.
Her comments on the breakaway region of Somaliland are also consistent with U.S. policy. The U.S. does not recognize Somaliland and endorses a unified Somalia.
While based on a false translation, Greene’s resolution is privileged, meaning it will go directly to the floor within two legislative days, where it could either be tabled and dismissed or voted on by the full House.