Death threats against Rep. Ilhan Omar are surging online after conservatives criticized the Muslim congresswoman for comments they claimed downplayed the 9/11 terror attacks. And when it comes to threats on Instagram, the site said it would not ban a prominent figure spewing hate speech against Omar.
This week Fox News and Republicans circulated an out-of-context clip of Omar discussing anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11 in a speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil-rights group. “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,” Omar says in the clip.
One Fox host used the clip to question whether the Somali-born U.S. citizen is “an American first.” Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel shared the clip, with McDaniel calling Omar “anti-American.” Far-right personality Laura Loomer went further on Instagram, using the clip to call for the criminalization of Muslims in political office.
In Instagram and Twitter replies to the attacks, Omar opponents called for her deportation or murder.
Death threats are against Twitter and Instagram’s terms of service. But both sites, as well as other social media platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, have been criticized for allowing violence to proliferate in violation of their rules. Threats piled into the comments on those sites, including in response to anti-Omar comments by the leader of the Republican National Committee.
“Ilhan Omar isn’t just anti-Semitic–she’s anti-American,” McDaniel wrote of Omar on Tuesday. McDaniel called on Democrats to “condemn” Omar.
Some of McDaniel’s readers had other suggestions.
“She needs to be eliminated with extreme prejudice,” one wrote in a tweet that was still live the next day.
Others in McDaniel’s mentions called for Omar to be “incinerated,” sent to Guantanamo Bay, or deported. A search for Omar’s name on Twitter reveals a host of recent death threats, including some lobbied at her and follow Democrats Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
An RNC official said the party condemned threats of violence, but still accused Omar of being offensive.
“Of course we condemn threats of violence," the spokesperson told The Daily Beast. "The fact remains, Ilhan Omar continues to spout deeply offensive and hateful rhetoric. We are going to continue to call her out when we hear it, especially since Democrats appear completely unwilling to do so.”
Omar pushed back against some of her highest-profile critics on the right, whom she said were enabling the attacks. On Wednesday, she accused Fox News and Rep. Crenshaw of “dangerous incitement” after both accused her of downplaying the 9/11 terror attack.
In a tweet of his own, Crenshaw denied inciting violence against Omar. In the comments, his fans accused Omar of being “anti-American,” “evil,” or supporting ISIS.
Twitter told The Daily Beast it’s investigating the tweets.
Some threats on Instagram were even more explicit. Instagram hosts Laura Loomer, a far-right troll who has been banned from Twitter. In a viciously anti-Muslim Instagram rant to her 112,000 followers this week, Loomer attacked Muslims’ right to practice their religion and hold office in the U.S.
Calling Islam a “cancer,” Loomer told followers that “Muslims should not be allowed to seek positions of political office in this country. It should be illegal.”
She went on to claim that Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women in Congress, would help throw away the Constitution and implement “an Islamic caliphate [...] because of who they are, because they are Muslims.”
An Instagram spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Loomer's Instagram story violated its policies against hate speech, which prohibit attacks on people based on their religion, but it declined to ban Loomer over her violation. Instead, Instagram said it would ban accounts that repeatedly violated their rules.
In the comments of Loomer’s many recent Instagram posts about Omar, fans openly called for the congresswoman’s murder. “Someone behead that sinister bitch,” one pro-Trump account commented on one of Loomer’s posts. The comment was one of many to recommend or personally offer assassination for Omar.
Death threats haven’t been limited to social media. Last week, an upstate New York man was arrested for allegedly leaving a voicemail calling Omar “a fucking terrorist,” repeating a false conspiracy theory about the Muslim Brotherhood, and threatening to shoot her in the head. In February, authorities said a Coast Guard lieutenant arrested with an arsenal put Omar on a hit list with other figures on the left.