Lauren Boebert's Islamophobia could get someone killed

Ilhan Omar is already getting death threats.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Ca...
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Originally Published: 

At this point, it seems fairly inarguable that Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert is not only comfortable with the prospect of political violence, but also actively encourages it among her her fellow conservatives; in the hopes of scaring — and ultimately, harming — Democrats for whom even their basic humanity is nothing more than a punchline to the congresswoman and her breed of bigoted conservatives.

That, at least, is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from Boebert’s repeated efforts over the past months to threaten, belittle, and ultimately dehumanize Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar in a clear escalation of what we now know has been a months-long process of publicly targeting the first Somali-American Muslim elected to congress as a “terrorist.”

In uncovered footage from a Staten Island Conservative Party dinner, filmed in September and shared widely by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski on Tuesday, Boebert mocked Omar as “black-hearted” and “evil,” to the laughter of the assembled crowd. Boebert is also seen “joking” (if that’s what you want to call it) that she once shared an elevator with Omar, but since “she doesn't have a backpack, she wasn't dropping it and running {...] we're good.” The elevator comments directly echo those made by Boebert in a Facebook video shared just last week in which she claimed to have seen a Capitol Hill police office chasing Omar into an elevator after mistaking the congresswoman for a terrorist.

“We only had one floor to go and I say, do I say it or do I not? And I look over and I say, 'Look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today,’” Boebert said, adding, “Don't worry, it's just her staffers on Twitter that talk for her. She's not tough in person.”

Omar denied the incident ever took place, and Boebert subsequently walked back(ish) the claim made in the November video, tweeting “I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep Omar.” However, when Omar and Boebert spoke on the phone Monday — the day before Kaczynski published the second video of Boebert’s hateful incitement from September — the Colorado congresswoman refused to apologize directly to her counterpart, and instead issued a statement claiming that while “I will fearlessly continue to put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists [...] Ilhan can't say the same thing and our country is worse off for it.”

Unlike the recent incitement shared by Boebert’s fellow seditionist, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, Boebert’s comments can’t be couched in an “aw shucks, I’m just sharing a cute meme” non-apology. They are — particularly given that we now understand them to be part of a longer chain of specifically hateful rhetoric — an unambiguously direct call for action to a Republican party primed for violence against anyone deemed un-American or simply seen as insufficiently patriotic. And given Boebert’s repeated use of the same Islamophobic insinuations over the course of several months, it seems increasingly likely that the goal of her comments is less to introduce the bigoted idea that somehow Omar is a terrorist than it is to normalize it with each successive repetition. Boebert is, in effect, playing the long game of widening Overton’s window so that, despite the blatant lie behind her claim, it becomes normal among Republicans to think — and say out loud — this obvious bit of bigotry. And the more normal it becomes, those who actually believe it will normalize the as-of-yet *wink wink* unspoken part of Boebert’s assertion: that if Omar is truly an anti-American terrorist, then violence isn’t just acceptable, it’s encouraged.

In fact, that’s exactly what has already happened. During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Omar played a voicemail message she’d received just hours after her unsuccessful tet-a-tet with Boebert.

“We see you Muslim sand [n-word] bitch, we know what you're up to,” the caller seethes. “You're all about taking over our country. Don't worry, there's plenty that will love the opportunity to take you off the face of this f-ing earth. Come get it. But you f-ing Muslim piece of shit. You jihadist. We know what you are. You’re a f-ing traitor. You will not live much longer.”

Boebert is, of course, not alone in perpetuating this sort of Islamophobic workplace harassment and threatening. Just before Omar’s chilling press conference detailing the threats she has received while in office, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared on Steve Bannon’s podcast to call the congresswoman “pro-Al Qaeda” and “anti-American.”

Like Boebert’s repeated rhetoric, the point is not simply the hateful attack itself; it’s the normalization of this type of dehumanizing claim for those likely to act against Omar, as both Republican women know.

To date, Boebert has not been formally punished for her comments, despite the precedent set when Congress stripped both Greene and Gosar of their committee assignments for their hate speech and incitement to violence. Boebert is allowed to continue her campaign of harassment unimpeded, however, it seems to just be a matter of time before her message rings true with someone willing to do more than just leave a threatening voicemail.