Tensions flared Monday as U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert dug in on her recent comments suggesting that a Muslim congresswoman has ties to terrorism amid mounting calls for GOP leaders to condemn the Colorado Republican.
A phone call between Boebert and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, ended with Omar hanging up on Boebert after Boebert rebuffed a request for a public apology and instead demanded that Omar apologize for "anti-American, anti-Semitic" rhetoric.
Meanwhile, most Republicans remained silent as Democrats, including Omar, called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to "actually hold his party accountable."
"I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate," Omar said in a statement. "To date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to condemn and hold their own members accountable for repeated instances of anti-Muslim hate and harassment. This is not about one hateful statement or one politician; it is about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred."
In a video posted online last week, Boebert told a crowd of supporters about an incident in an elevator at the Capitol, where she said she was unable to hold the door open in time for a frantic Capitol police officer. "What's happening?" Boebert said she had been wondering. "I look to my left, and there she is: Ilhan Omar. And I said, 'Well, she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine.'" As the crowd responded with laughter, Boebert added that she referred to Omar as a member of the "Jihad Squad."
Omar said Friday that Boebert had made up the story, adding, "Anti-Muslim bigotry isn't funny & shouldn’t be normalized. Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation."
Boebert later posted an apology to "anyone in the Muslim community" she had offended and said she had reached out to Omar.
On Monday, both lawmakers described the phone call.
In a video posted on Monday to Instagram, Boebert said she got in touch with Omar "to let her know directly that I had reflected on my previous remarks."
"Now, as a strong Christian woman who values faith deeply, I never want anything I say to offend someone's religion," Boebert said. "So I told her that, even after I put out a public statement to that effect. She said that she still wanted a public apology because what I had done wasn't good enough. So I reiterated to her what I had just said. She kept asking for a public apology, so I told Ilhan Omar that she should make a public apology to the American people for her anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-police rhetoric."
After both continued to press their cases, Boebert added, Omar hung up on her.
"Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is part of cancel culture 101 and a pillar of the Democrat Party," she said. "Make no mistake, I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can't say the same thing, and our country is worse off for it."
Omar said in a release that she "graciously accepted a call" from 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."
On Twitter, Omar added: "There is only so much grace we can extend to others as humans before we must learn to cut our losses or hang up on someone in this case."
While a handful of Republicans have expressed support for Boebert's remarks — Pueblo County GOP Chairman Robert Leverington told KRDO on Friday that he thought Boebert "probably expressed the sentiment of many Americans" — her fellow Colorado GOP colleagues have yet to weigh in. Neither U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs nor U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Windsor, a former chairman of the state GOP, responded to repeated requests for comment from Colorado Politics.
Democratic members of Colorado's delegation, however, denounced Boebert and urged McCarthy to do something.
"Rep. Boebert’s comments were offensive and reprehensible, and Leader McCarthy’s refusal to condemn such inflammatory rhetoric from members of his caucus and take appropriate action is a failure of leadership," U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, told Colorado Politics in statement sent by a spokeswoman.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter said he wants the House GOP to make clear it doesn't tolerate comments like Boebert's.
"I think Rep. Boebert’s comments were extremely inappropriate and hurtful," Perlmutter said in a statement. "Given the serious nature of her comments, I continue to call on the House Republican caucus to take action when their members express hateful and disturbing rhetoric or sentiments. Anything of the sort should not be tolerated."
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow called it "a dark day for democracy if we let American governance devolve into using racism and xenophobia to score cheap political points" in a statement.
"The sacrifice of Americans from all backgrounds demonstrates true patriotism, and bigotry will never replace it on my watch," he said. "Congresswoman Boebert’s behavior is unbecoming of the office and deeply offensive to Coloradans, who understand that the diversity of communities across our state is our greatest strength."
Added Crow: "I have never been shy about calling out the congresswoman’s long and consistent history of hateful behavior, but the silence from our colleagues across the aisle is deafening. Bigotry should never be a normalized part of our political discourse."
Boebert has repeatedly used the term "Jihad Squad" to refer to Omar, a Somali refugee who wears a hijab, including earlier this month during debate over a House vote to censure U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar. The Arizona Republican and Boebert ally was removed from committee assignments for posting an anime video that depicted him killing Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and swinging swords at President Joe Biden.