Ilhan Omar prevails

In a sidebar to the election of Donald Trump and the Republican takeover of Minnesota’s house and senate, Ilhan Omar was elected the first Somali American legislator in the Minneapolis district that includes the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood known as Little Mogadishu. Following Omar’s defeat of 22-term incumbent Phyllis Kahn in the DFL primary this past summer, I raised the question whether Omar had married her brother for dishonest purposes.

On August 17 Omar issued a brief written statement purporting to clarify her marital history. Obviously written with the help of a professional who had been airlifted into Omar’s campaign for a day or two, the statement contained three references to Omar’s “faith tradition.”

It looked like mystification, but we get it. Omar is Muslim. Enough said. Further questions would be, ah, disrespectful.

After issuing her written statement, Omar declined all interview requests from members of the regular media. KMSP 9’s Tom Lyden captured Omar on camera turning him down twice. Omar offered up as her brief written statement as the last word on the matter, and so it has been.

I met off-the-record with a local reporter who had sought interviews with Omar and husband number one (the “love of her life,” according to her statement, and the father of her children). I chided the reporter for failing to report further on the story or draw inferences from Omar’s silence and other circumstantial anomalies.

“She’s going to have to talk,” the reporter assured me.

“Before election day?” I asked.

“She’s going to have to talk,” the reporter responded.

She never had to talk.

Alpha News reporter Preya Samsundar has eaten the lunch of the local media. She has tracked down and corresponded with Omar’s apparent husband — husband number 2, the guy she legally married, not “the love of her life.” (I say “apparent” husband because if he is her brother, the marriage would be void under Minnesota law.) Samsundar has concluded that Omar’s apparent husband is her brother.

Covering Omar’s election on Tuesday, Star Tribune reporters Faiza Mahamud and J. Patrick Coolican write about this piece of the story as follows:

Omar’s nascent political career hit an almost immediate snag, however, just days after the primary victory, when questions arose about her marital status. She lives with Ahmed Hirsi, the father of her three children, but is legally married to another man, with whom she says she is in divorce proceedings.

Conservative websites have speculated that the legal marriage was to her brother for the purpose of committing immigration fraud. Omar declined interviews during the media maelstrom this summer, instead releasing a statement saying there was no immigration fraud, but a more conventional story about trouble in her relationship with Hirsi, which has since resolved itself.

Omar said the district has rallied around her in the face of the scrutiny.

She said her family has remained steadfastly with her, and alleged the marriage story was a “political con” meant to derail the progress of the kinds of people she will represent, including the Somali-American community.

“I feel like I have answered all of the questions — mostly rumors — in the statements that I have put out,” she said.

Coolican covered this story for the Star Tribune after it emerged on Power Line this past August. Having gotten the treatment from Omar’s spokesman and having failed get an interview with Omar or her husband, Coolican knows first-hand that Omar has not “answered all of the questions — mostly rumors — in the statements” she has put out.

I summarized the story in the City Journal “The curious case of Ilhan Omar.” At this point I will just observe that Omar’s election to public office may be historic in more ways than one. We don’t know.

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