Conservatives claim Ilhan Omar called for ‘dismantling’ U.S. economy and political system. Here’s what she actually said.
“Ilhan Omar Calls For ‘Dismantling’ US Economy And Political System,” the Federalist’s says.
“Rep. Ilhan Omar Calls For ‘Dismantling’ the U.S. Economy, Political System,” RealClearPolitics’s headline initially read.
“Ilhan Omar Calls For ‘Dismantling’ of America’s ‘Economic and Political Systems,'” says Breitbart’s.
“@IlhanMN advocates for the ‘dismantling’ of the U.S. economy and its political system,” read a Washington Examiner tweet.
GOP politicians including Donald Trump Jr., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), former presidential candidate Scott Walker and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) have all echoed the allegation, with Blackburn calling for Omar’s resignation. Fox News host Tucker Carlson summarized Omar’s comments thusly: “Dismantle the American economy and the American system of government, institutions that generations of Americans built over hundreds of years. … We hate this country. We want a new country.”
One thing you’ll notice from these summaries is that none of them say what came between “dismantling” and “economic and political systems.” And there’s a good reason for that: Because Omar’s words are being rearranged — and rather speculatively so.
Here the actual quote from the clip that circulated Tuesday of Omar’s news conference on systemic racism:
As long as our economy and political systems prioritize profit without considering who is profiting, who is being shut out, we will perpetuate this inequality. So we cannot stop at criminal justice system. We must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression, wherever we find it.
And here’s the video:
So, Omar didn’t directly connect the “dismantling” to the entire U.S. economy and political system. She instead invoked broader inequalities produced by how our “economy and political systems” have prioritized things, and then she said we should set about “dismantling the whole system of oppression, wherever we find it.”
The above critics have inferred that she meant to say that the entire U.S. economy and political systems were themselves rotten — and thus must be dismantled — but she didn’t say that. And in fact she disputes these characterizations of her comments.
A less conspiratorial reading is that Omar views the “system of oppression” as being a symptom of how we’ve prioritized things in our government and economy, without believing that setup is itself inherently oppressive — that the system of oppression exists inside our government and economy, without it constituting the entire thing.
And that would actually be a very logical reading, if you look at the full context of her comments. Omar followed up her call for “dismantling the whole system of oppression” by adding the clause “wherever we find it.” Further, she said that, “We are not merely fighting to tear down the systems of oppression in the criminal justice system; we are fighting to tear down systems of oppression that exist in housing, in education, in health care, in employment [and] in the air we breathe.”
If she was saying the entire system was oppressive and must be dismantled, why allow for the idea that this oppression exists in some places but not others? Why suggest the systems of oppression exist inside these larger systems, if you mean to say the entire thing is the system of oppression which must be dismantled?
But even then, Omar’s comments indicate that these systems of oppression exist inside our criminal justice system, inside our housing system, inside our education and employment systems and inside our health-care system. She didn’t even say those economic and political systems themselves should be dismantled — just that the systems of oppression that live within them need to be.
It’s a nuanced reading, but when you’re accusing someone of wanting to dismantle the entire U.S. government, it’s probably worth being nuanced.