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Lauren Boebert's apology to Ilhan Omar for a blatantly Islamophobic 'joke' is pure theater

As a Muslim, I’ve seen first-hand the real-world impact of the anti-Muslim bigotry spewed by visible GOP politicians.

After a now infamous video was circulated last week showing Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., jokingly calling Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., the only hijab-wearing member of Congress, a terrorist, Omar released a statement Monday:

“Today, I graciously accepted a call from Rep. Lauren Boebert in the hope of receiving a direct apology for falsely claiming she met me in an elevator, suggesting I was a terrorist, and for a history of anti-Muslim hate. Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments. She instead doubled down on her rhetoric and I decided to end the unproductive call."

A Republican congresswoman calling a Muslim colleague a suicide bomber isn't actually that surprising. After all, this is a member of the same GOP whose leader Donald Trump declared during his 2016 presidential campaign that “Islam hates us”; claimed that Muslims knew where the terrorists were but refused to turn them in; and called for a “total and complete ban” on Muslims entering the United States.

But the response from the Republican Party — or, rather, lack thereof — is a clear statement about the kind of hate speech that is tolerated by the GOP. Only 11 House Republicans of over 200 voted to condemn Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., for her bigoted comments about Muslims, Jews, Blacks as well as her embrace of political violence versus Democrats.

The video in question showed Boebert regaling her supporters with a (fabricated, according to Omar) story of being in an elevator in the Capitol when a frantic Capitol Police officer sprinted toward her elevator door. “I look to my left,” Boebert says in the video, “and there she is: Ilhan Omar.”

Boebert paused like a comedian before delivering the punchline, “And I said, well, she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine.” The crowd, as Boebert had obviously hoped, cheered and laughed as she described her next reaction: “Oh, look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.”

To Boebert, who has publicly demonized groups that seek to end discrimination against Black Americans and has peddled the white nationalist “great replacement theory” about the threat immigrants allegedly pose to “white America,” smearing Omar, a Black Muslim immigrant, is right on brand. Omar is all the things the GOP despises rolled into one. (It’s also why Trump made her a frequent focus of his attacks.)

Boebert did issue a so-called apology Friday, tweeting, "I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar,” adding she has reached out to Omar’s offices. “There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction,” she stated. (Notably, this apology was not shared on Boebert’s personal Twitter account with nearly 800,000 followers, but only on her official congressional account, which has far fewer followers.)

But the reality is that for months, Boebert has been smearing Omar and fellow Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., calling them part of the “jihad squad.” In June, Boebert tweeted that Omar was an “honorary member of Hamas” and a “terrorist sympathizer.” Omar noted at the time that Boebert’s comments had led to death threats against her.

Last week, when the House was considering censuring GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for releasing an anime video in which he was depicted murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Boebert gratuitously peddled more anti-Muslim hate on the House floor by stating that Omar is part of the “jihad squad.” Boebert joined 205 Republicans who voted not to condemn Gosar — with only two House Republicans voting in support of the censure.

Given Boebert’s bigoted past, Omar understandably slammed her empty “apology,” and called on both GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to act: “Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims.”

Omar first responded via Twitter that Boebert had wholly fabricated the event, saying, “This whole story is made up.”

McCarthy issued a statement in which he did not condemn Boebert’s anti-Muslim hate, but simply noted her so-called apology and encouraged Omar and Boebert to meet in person. No one should be surprised by McCarthy’s refusal to denounce Boebert’s hate directed toward Muslims. Over the past decade, Republican leaders have politically weaponized anti-Muslim bigotry and spread Islamophobia arguably just as much as many hate groups.

Omar first responded via Twitter that Boebert had wholly fabricated the event, saying, “This whole story is made up.” She added that it is “sad she thinks bigotry gets her clout,” emphasizing that “anti-Muslim bigotry isn’t funny and shouldn’t be normalized. Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslim tropes get no condemnation.”

As a Muslim, I’ve seen first-hand the real-world impact of the anti-Muslim bigotry spewed by visible GOP politicians who fueled a wave of hate crimes against Muslims during the 2016 Trump campaign and beyond. This ranges from attacks on Muslim Americans at our places of worship, bullying of Muslim students and even terrorist plots by self-avowed Trump supporters to murder us.

But Boebert has not only in trafficked in bigotry, but she has also been a visible part of the Jan. 6 attack and its aftermath. On Jan. 6, just hours before the Capitol attack, Boebert tweeted, “Today is 1776,” which, as experts note, is used by far-right activists to indicate support for “a revolution in the wake of Trump’s election loss,” which they view as illegitimate. Boebert has also slammed the Department of Justice for what she deems unfair treatment of those arrested for their role in the Jan. 6 attack on our Capitol. She has documented ties to white nationalist militias such as the Three Percenters, whose members provided security at her rallies and some of whom have been arrested for their involvement in the Jan 6. attack. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack should subpoena Boebert to provide testimony under oath given her tweet and ties to the Three Percenters.

Boebert is a lot of things. But one thing she is not is an outlier in today’s GOP. In fact, the deafening silence from the GOP’s leadership in response to her conduct tells you all you need to know about where today’s Republican Party stands.