I broke this story on Sunday evening.
It’s now late Tuesday morning. Someone in the North Dakota Republican Party has finally got around to condemning Senator Oley Larsen (R-Minot) for perpetuating a long-debunked conspiracy theory about Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and al Qaeda. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) has called on Larsen to apologize, and step down from his position as Senate president pro tempore for the interim:
BISMARCK — North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said Sen. Oley Larsen should issue a public apology and resign his position as interim president pro tempore after the Minot Republican called U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a terrorist and posted a mislabeled photo of her on his Facebook page.
“Sen. Larsen’s comments are not the position of the Senate Republican Caucus or the Senate as a whole,” Wardner told Forum News Service on Tuesday.
Wardner said Larsen should apologize for misrepresenting Omar in the photo that falsely portrayed her training at an Al Qaida camp, but he said the post wasn’t racist as some Facebook commenters have suggested. Wardner said he has not yet spoken with Larsen.
“No, I don’t think it’s racist. It has to do with with [sic] political philosophy,” Wardner said. “[Larsen and Omar] are as far apart politically as you can be.”
I do not agree that Larsen’s posts aren’t racist. He had referred to Omar as a terrorist on multiple occasions based on no evidence beyond a miscaptioned Associated Press photo taken in 1978. Four years before Omar was born, and about a decade before al Qaeda was even formed.
Would Larsen and the other people pushing this nonsense be making those sorts of specific claims if Omar wasn’t a Muslim?
Omar herself has said some genuinely odious things and has troubling connections to groups and movements most Americans would consider to be very extreme, but none of that adds up to a justification for calling her a terrorist. Let alone someone supposedly trained by al Qaeda.
I understand the “racist” charge causes some eye-rolling in 2019 politics, if only because it’s so often deployed cavalierly as a rote denunciation of someone, usually on the right, who says something someone else, usually on the left, doesn’t like.
That’s not what this is.
What Larsen posted was embarrassing and indefensible, and NDGOP leadership ought not to soft-pedal it.