UPDATE | Rep. Omar apologizes for tweets on AIPAC's influence


WASHINGTON (AP) — Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar "unequivocally" apologized today for tweets suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are being paid to do so, which drew bipartisan criticism and a rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Minnesota Democrat said she had no intention offending anyone, including Jewish Americans.

"We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me about my identity," Omar tweeted. "This is why I unequivocally apologize."

The statement was the latest reckoning among Democrats of intense differences in their ranks over the U.S.-Israeli relationship, highlighted by criticism from Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They are the first Muslim women to serve in Congress. Pelosi and other Democrats, including leaders and chairmen, laid down a marker making clear that Omar had overstepped.

In a pair of tweets over the weekend, Omar criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. "It's all about the Benjamins baby," she wrote, invoking slang about $100 bills.

Asked on Twitter who she thought was paying members of Congress to support Israel, Omar responded, "AIPAC!"

That sparked Pelosi's first public rebuke of a freshman lawmaker who had helped flip the House from Republican control and is part of a record number of women in Congress.

"Congresswoman Omar's use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive," Pelosi said in a statement issued by her office and signed by other Democratic leaders after a bipartisan backlash against the Minnesota Democrat. "We condemn these remarks, and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments."

It also was a stark exposure of an increasingly tense split among Democrats over U.S.-Israeli policy ahead of the 2020 elections. None of the Democratic presidential hopefuls weighed in publicly as their party's House leaders chastised Omar.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today insisted that freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar immediately apologize for tweets saying members of Congress are being paid by a powerful interest group to support Israel.

"Congresswoman Omar's use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive," Pelosi said in a statement issued by her office and signed by other Democratic leaders after a bipartisan backlash against the Minnesota Democrat. "We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments."

The statement came after Omar tweeted over the weekend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is paying members of Congress to support Israel. Omar is one of two of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.

Omar did not immediately respond.

The leaders' statement came in the hours after a pair of powerful House chairman rebuked Omar for the remarks. Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said he would not tolerate them and found it "shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of 'Jewish money.'"

He said he will emphasize to members of the panel of both parties that the American-Israeli relationship is important.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler named Omar in his statement and said she had failed a test of leadership.

AIPAC responded Sunday night: "We are proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. Our bipartisan efforts are reflective of American values and interests. We will not be deterred in any way by ill-informed and illegitimate attacks on this important work."

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