Fact check: : Trump falsely claims Omar praised al-Qaida

Calvin Woodward and Hope Yen
Associated Press
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, looks at a paper held by President Donald Trump about Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., as Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Washington.

Washington – In trying to make the case that Rep. Ilhan Omar loves terrorists, President Donald Trump put words in her mouth.

His argument so far rests primarily on two examples he gave Monday as he continues to go after four first-term congresswomen of color for not being American enough, reserving his harshest words for Omar, from Minnesota.

He mangled one example. Neither example shows Omar praising al-Qaida. Nor has Trump explained why he is assailing all four women and the “love they have for enemies like al-Qaida.” The four Americans are Somali-born Omar and U.S.-born Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Here’s what he said about Omar when answering questions at a manufacturing event at the White House on Monday:

TRUMP: “I hear the way she talks about al-Qaida. Al-Qaida has killed many Americans. She said, ‘You can hold your chest out, you can – when I think of America – uhh – when I think of al-Qaida, I can hold my chest out.’”

THE FACTS: She said nothing like this. Trump’s account is a highly confused rendering of something Omar said in an interview in 2013 .

In that interview, she talked about studying terrorism under a professor who dramatically pronounced the names of terrorist groups, as if to emphasize their evil nature. “The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said ‘al-Qaida,’ he sort of like – his shoulders went up” and he used a menacing tone, she said.

She was laughing about it, while making the point that the professor was subtly rousing suspicions of Muslims with his theatrical presentation.

But in Trump’s telling, instead of a professor lifting his shoulders to underscore his disdain of a terrorist group, Omar puffed her chest, as if to express pride in al-Qaida. That didn’t happen.


TRUMP: “When she talked about the World Trade Center being knocked down, ‘some people.’ You remember the famous ‘some people.’ These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country.”

THE FACTS: It’s true that plenty of critics thought Omar sounded dismissive about the 2001 terrorist attacks in a comment in a speech in March . Those remarks, though, did not express love “for enemies like al-Qaida,” as Trump had it.

Speaking to the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Omar said the group “was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” Her phrasing – “some people did something” – struck many people as a tone-deaf way to refer to the catastrophic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The American-Islamic group actually was founded in 1994, according to its website. Its membership skyrocketed after the 2001 attacks.

In the speech, Omar said many Muslims saw their civil liberties eroded after the attacks, and she advocated for activism. “For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it,” she said.

But she also noted that “what we know, and what Islam teaches us, and what I always say, is that love trumps hate.”

After being criticized for her remarks, she noted that President George W. Bush had stood at Ground Zero days after the attacks and referred somewhat generically to “the people who knocked these buildings down,” while vowing they “will hear all of us soon.”


Find AP Fact Checks at

Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter:

EDITOR’S NOTE – A look at the veracity of claims by political figures