Republicans Use ‘Bunk’ Speech Translation to Attack Ilhan Omar

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Ilhan Omar is facing fire from the diehard right in Congress after her recent remarks about Somalia were mistranslated on social media.

On Thursday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) launched a censure resolution against Omar, calling her a “foreign agent of a foreign country,” accusing her of treason, and pushing for her deportation.

She questioned Omar’s loyalty to the U.S. over comments the Minnesota lawmaker made in Somali on Saturday. In a translation of her speech that spread online, Omar, who is a Somali refugee, was misquoted as referring to herself as a “Somalian first” and “Muslim second.”

But that’s not what she actually said, according to multiple reports.

The Minnesota Reformer reported Thursday that two independent translators, including a court interpreter who is federally certified, turned up a much different result. Omar actually said, “We are people who know that they are Somali and Muslim”—never ranking allegiances as the erroneous translations alleged.

But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from seizing on the unverified translations. GOP members were quick to jump on Omar as a traitor to the U.S., including the extremist Greene and the more moderate House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN), who called on her to “resign in disgrace.” Emmer wrote that Omar’s “appalling Somalia-first comments” were an insult to her constituents and a breach of her oath of office in a scathing post on X.

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Omar’s misinterpreted comments came from a speech she gave in Minneapolis on Saturday, during a gathering to celebrate a recent election in Somalia’s Puntland region. She addressed Somali concerns over relations between Puntland and the unrecognized state of Somaliland, with whom the region occasionally comes into conflict.

Omar said that many Somalis asked her what the U.S. would do in light of Somaliland’s political moves. “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,” Omar said, according to multiple translations from news organizations.

But Republicans seized on a far different translation posted on social media, which quoted her as saying, “the U.S. government will only do what Somalians in the U.S. tell them to do. They will do what we want and nothing else. They must follow our orders.”

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The mistranslation appeared to come from a user claiming to be a foreign affairs official from the Republic of Somaliland.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) slammed the censure resolution against Omar as “frivolous,” “designed to inflame and castigate and further divide us.”

In an email to the Daily Beast, Omar slammed the attacks as a new low for her Republican colleagues.

“I am deeply embarrassed for Tom, Marjorie, and any of the other fools who are attacking me based on this bunk translation, this is desperate and frankly sad, even for them,” she wrote. “The attacks being lobbed against me are not only completely false, they are rooted in xenophobia and Islamophobia. This is a manufactured controversy based on an inaccurate translation taken entirely out of context.”

Omar underscored that her remarks were in support of a unified Somalia, which “aligns with longstanding U.S. policy.”

“I categorically reject these disingenuous attempts to malign my character and question my loyalty to my home, America,” she wrote.

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