A Republican congressman responded to Ilhan Omar’s expression of grief about the attack at the US Capitol on Friday by comparing it to the 9/11 attacks.
A police officer was killed when a suspect rammed him and another officer with his car outside the Capitol on Friday. The suspect wielded a knife and was shot dead. The other officer hit by the car survived.
The attack came not quite three months after supporters of Donald Trump attacked the Capitol on 6 January, seeking to overturn the election. A police officer was one of five people who died as a direct result.
Omar was at the Capitol that day. In January, she told the Guardian she “didn’t know if I would make it out” and had called her ex-husband “to make sure he would continue to tell my children that I loved them if I didn’t make it out”.
Security has been heightened and the attack on Friday provoked confusion and fear.
Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, tweeted: “Heartbroken to learn another [police officer] was killed while protecting the Capitol. My thoughts and prayers go out to the officer’s family and the entire Capitol police force. The death toll would have been worse if the assailant had an AR-15 [assault rifle] instead of a knife.”
In response, Congressman Greg Murphy of North Carolina wrote: “Would have been worse if they had been flying planes into the buildings also.”
Omar, who came to the US from Somalia as a child, is one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress.
Murphy was widely rebuked.
“You just invoked Sept 11 to attack a Muslim member of Congress,” wrote the North Carolina state senator Jeff Jackson, a Democrat. “I knew you a little when you were in the state legislature. This is well beneath you. It doesn’t matter how strongly you disagree with her on policy, you should represent our state better than this.”
Robert S McCaw, director of government affairs for the Council on Islamic Relations (Cair), said Murphy’s tweet was “disrespectful to the victims of the 9/11 attacks, to their families and to the countless Muslim and other minority hate crime victims who were targeted in the wake of 9/11. His bigoted comments only serve to perpetuate the climate of hate that we are witnessing nationwide.”
McCaw also said he hoped “Murphy’s Republican colleagues will condemn this Islamophobic attack and not just look the other way as they did when Muslim members of Congress were attacked similarly in the past.”
The tweet was deleted.
A Charlotte TV station, WITN, reported that Murphy has tweeted and deleted before. In October, he called now vice-president Kamala Harris “a walking disaster … only picked for her color and her race … is that how we pick our leaders now in America?”
Murphy did not immediately comment.
On Saturday, however, one Twitter user responding to a tweet by the congressman about Covid and immigration told Murphy he followed “Typical [Republican] MO. Never take the high road. Never provide a solution to the issue. ALWAYS stoke division.”
“Awww,” replied Murphy, who was a doctor before entering Congress and worked as a medical missionary. “Sorry I triggered you …”