MassGOP rips Reps. Omar and Tlaib

Gov. Baker not consulted on resolution, according to sponsor

THE MASSACHUSETTS REPUBLICAN PARTY took aim at the only two Muslim women in Congress, officially condemning Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for alleged anti-Semitism in a resolution that passed overwhelmingly Tuesday night, according to one of its sponsors.

The resolution was inspired by a similar resolution passed by the Alabama Republican party, according to Tom Mountain, who drafted the Massachusetts statement with his fellow Republican Marty Lamb.

The Alabama party had called for its delegation to move to expel Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, accusing her of anti-Semitism.

Omar swiftly and “unequivocally” apologized for a tweet she posted in February that played into anti-Semitic tropes, and which received bipartisan opprobrium. But the Massachusetts Republican Party’s resolution contains other incendiary charges, which have little or no basis in legitimate news sources.

The fact-checking website Snopes.com has debunked claims that Omar attended secret fundraisers for Islamic groups tied to terror and that Tlaib celebrated the Holocaust. The website credited Omar with “consistently” opposing Muslim extremism.

“This fundraiser rumor is also not the first instance in which she has been falsely linked to terrorism,” Snopes wrote of Omar in March.

Nevertheless, the Massachusetts Republican Party on Tuesday adopted a resolution claiming that the two Democrats have “aligned themselves” with terrorist organizations and Holocaust deniers, and “repeatedly demonstrated an anti-Semitic demeanor.”

In addition to condemning Omar and Tlaib, the resolution adopted Tuesday night affirmed that the party “stands in support of the State of Israel.”

An earlier draft went further, urging the expulsion of the two first-term congresswomen, but that language was dropped, according to Mountain, who said it would have been pointless to ask the all-Democrat Massachusetts delegation to carry forth such a plan. Someone at the meeting at the Newton Marriott suggested including Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the condemnation, but Mountain said that wouldn’t be appropriate given the offenses listed in the resolution.

“Maybe at some later date we can,” Mountain said in a phone interview. “While from our perspective they’re bad, they’re not the worst of the worst. We dealt with the worst of the worst, which is Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.”

While there was no dissension during the voice vote, according to Mountain, the party won’t make a habit of weighing in on national issues, he said.

“We don’t often do this, and I don’t anticipate we’ll be taking up another issue like this for the rest of the year. I certainly won’t,” Mountain said.

Neither congresswoman’s office responded immediately to requests for comment about the resolution, but the action was denounced by Jetpac, a Cambridge-based group that “seeks to build a strong American Muslim political infrastructure.”

“We’ve come to expect this vitriol from fringe Islamophobic ‘media’ but to see these falsehoods repeated in a formal resolution of the MA State GOP is a stain on the Commonwealth,” said Jetpac executive director Mohammed Missouri in a statement. Missouri said Gov. Charlie Baker and the legislative leaders of the Republican caucuses – Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Brad Jones – have “a responsibility to condemn this bigotry.”

There is an irony to the Massachusetts Republican party’s symbolic action on Tuesday night. Although President Donald Trump has attempted to use “The Squad” – meaning Omar, Tlaib, Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez – as a wedge to divide Democrats, in Massachusetts, practically any high-profile controversial national political issue risks putting Baker in an awkward spot. A moderate Republican who blanked his presidential ballot in 2016, Baker condemned as “shameful and racist” Trump’s tweet telling Pressley and her colleagues to “go back” to where they came from. Baker’s message of cooperation with the Democrats who control the state Legislature is at odds with the fiery rhetoric of the state party, led by Jim Lyons.

“This had nothing to do with the governor. This had nothing to do with the governor’s people. We didn’t speak with him, consult with him. He had no knowledge of this. He had no inkling of this,” Mountain said.  “We do our thing. They do theirs.”

Pressley also called on Baker to speak out against his party’s resolution.

Day after day, the occupant of the White House spews dishonest, racist rhetoric about my colleagues and friends, Congresswoman Omar and Congresswoman Tlaib – fanning the flames of Islamophobia and endangering the lives of the Congresswomen, their families, and staff. So it comes as no surprise that the Massachusetts GOP, which has sought to remake itself in Donald Trump’s image under the direction of Jim Lyons, would pass such a bigoted, hateful resolution,” Pressley said. “Nonetheless, we must call out this language for what it is: untrue, racist, and dangerous. Governor Charlie Baker should immediately disavow this resolution and condemn the members of his party who are peddling racist tropes.”

Gus Bickford, the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic party had a similar message, saying that Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito ” deserve condemnation if they allow their own Massachusetts Republican Party to continue to spout wild, racist vitriol inspired by Donald Trump.”

A political aide to the governor did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.

While the Massachusetts party was gung ho to condemn the two Democrats, the party has been silent about Congressman Steve King, an Iowa Republican, whose own Republican colleagues stripped him of his committee assignments after he defended the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” in an interview with the New York Times.

“The Steven King issue, that was dealt with before,” said Mountain, who claimed what Omar and Tlaib have done is “infinitely worse.”

In addition to other concerning incidents, on a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial group King last year met with a publication associated with Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by a former Nazi SS officer and is led by someone “who was active in neo-Nazi circles as a youth,” according to the Washington Post.

“If he did, that’s a very bad thing. I think it’s a strange thing. I think it’s an odd thing. I don’t know in detail about that specific incident,” said Mountain. “Neo-Nazis in Austria? I mean, do these people even exist? Are they organized?”

Mountain said that Islamic terrorist organizations, such as the Iran-backed Hezbollah, are “certainly” more organized and dangerous than any neo-Nazi groups in Austria.

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Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

The fact that the resolution targets the only two Muslim women in Congress is an unfortunate circumstance, according to Mountain, but one dictated by Omar and Tlaib’s actions.

“It’s nothing to do with their race or ethnicity or religion. It’s not what they are. It’s what they say and how they are,” Mountain said.