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Rep. Ilhan Omar Blasts CNN Over Pundit’s ‘Blatant Islamophobia And Racism’

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) lambasted CNN on Friday after a pundit on the news network claimed, without pushback from anyone on set, that the congresswoman was a “public relations agent for Hamas.”

Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist who previously worked as a special assistant to President George W. Bush, said Tuesday night on CNN’s “NewsNight” that he was “surprised, that in the year of our Lord 2024, there is a public relations agent for Hamas sitting in the United States Congress.”

Jennings went on to say that he “didn’t hear a word of concern” from Omar about the roughly 250 hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7. attack on Israel. Israeli forces responded with an aggressive bombing campaign that killed more than 30,000 Palestinians

He was referring in part to comments Omar had made earlier that day on CNN, when she told host Abby Phillip that it was her understanding that Israel hadn’t attended cease-fire negotiations in Egypt.

“We obviously want the hostages released and returned to their families. There are American hostages that are included. There is in infant that is included in those hostages. It is important that we do everything that we can,” she said. But Omar added of Israel, “We can’t be dishonest to the point where we are saying that everybody is doing everything they can to be at the table to negotiate.”

In a written message to HuffPost, Omar slammed Jennings’ “hateful rhetoric” and said he’d lied about her interview.

“This blatant Islamophobia and racism are all too common for people who look, and worship like me. When Islamophobia is at an all-time high, the normalization of this hate must be condemned unequivocally,” she wrote in a message to HuffPost.

Phillip, an anchor on “NewsNight,” did not challenge Jennings’ claims about Omar’s previous comments. Other panelists on the show — S.E. Cupp, a CNN political commentator and writer, Democratic pundit Jamal Simmons and CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston — also did not push back on Jennings’ claim that Omar was doing PR for Hamas.

“It was deeply disappointing that Abby Phillip failed to fulfill her duty as the anchor to correct him or call out his hateful, anti-Muslim remarks,” Omar told HuffPost.

CNN did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Other progressive Democrats have also called out the network for allowing Jennings to make such comments, and are calling for the network to break ties with him.

“How on earth is this kind of blatant Islamophobia so casually accepted without pushback? This is shocking,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said in a post on X that Jennings’ comments were “reminiscent of the anti-Muslim bigotry we saw in the George Bush post-9/11 era.”

“It is disgusting and must not be normalized. CNN should denounce this hateful, dangerous and blatant Islamophobia immediately,” she added.

“CNN should never have him on again!” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).

In her email to HuffPost, Omar said that her congressional district has experienced an uptick in anti-Muslim attacks and that comments like Jennings’ only exacerbate Islamophobia.

“It’s dangerous and unacceptable to normalize hateful, bigoted comments made on prime time tv that only fuel the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment,” she added.

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