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Rep. Ilhan Omar calls out Fox News, telling Stephen Colbert she's in Congress to make "good trouble"

Rep. Ilhan Omar, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Sometimes your booking becomes timely for all the wrong reasons. Stephen Colbert introduced Wednesday Late Show guest Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) by saying that he’d been trying to get the first-term congresswoman on his show for a long time, and, while the two never brought it up in their wide-ranging interview (extended version embedded below), it happens that she was finally able to come on the week that a vocal Donald Trump supporter threatened to kill her, explicitly for being Muslim.

Of course, being what Colbert termed a “lightning rod” for bigots (including Donald Trump and those blow-dried propagandists at Fox News) is nothing new for Omar. Explaining that her identity as a woman, immigrant, Muslim, and person of color all play into the existing prejudices of those looking to vilify others, Omar told Colbert that the uninterrupted hostility she’s faced ever since becoming one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress is “self-explanatory.” With Colbert noting that, just that morning, Fox And Friends designated dunce-cap (he’s the Bobby Moynihan of the group) Brian Kilmeade asked nodding mannequin co-hosts Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt if Omar is “an American first.” (Thus making Kilmeade the second Fox personality to question the Muslim-American congresswoman’s patriotism in recent memory—we’ll see if Kilmeade gets the Jeanine Pirro paid vacation slap on the wrist treatment as well.)

Omar, calling out Fox News directly, said that, while her comments about pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC were hammered by Republicans (and some Democrats) as anti-Semitic, her most vociferous right-wing critics aren’t leaving anything open to interpretation in their remarks about her. Noting how her glibness about “follow[ing] the Benjamins” when analyzing her critics was ill-advised, and how she hadn’t understood the “historical context” and “the pain it might incite,” Oman yet expressed to Colbert that there’s no room for misunderstanding in Fox News’ attacks. “It’s not insinuation,” said Omar, “they actually said that I might not be an American, my loyalties might not be to this country.” Continuing, Omar stated, “I took an oath. I am as American as everyone else is.”


On the topic of her “lightning rodding” by Fox and other right-wing organizations, Colbert pointed to the recent attacks on Omar’s assessment that White House adviser and white nationalist Stephen Miller is, in fact, a white nationalist. “I thought to myself, ‘Haven’t I said that?,’” said Colbert, “‘Don’t we make jokes about that all the time on this show?’” (He really does.) Omar noted that she’s not even the first sitting member of Congress to call Miller a white nationalist (he really is), telling Colbert that “Everyone else’s truth is allowed, but my truth can never be.”

Speaking of telling truth to power, Omar also addressed those Democratic colleagues advising her and fellow women of color Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to step back and not make waves so early in their careers. Noting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t have gotten where she is if she’d listened to that same advice, Omar said, “We are not there to be quiet, we are not there to be invisible,” instead citing Civil Rights Movement hero and longtime Congressman John Lewis as the trio’s inspiration to make, as she quoted Lewis, “good trouble.”


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.