Omens of Omar

Two years ago Ilhan Omar made headlines around the world when she was on the verge of election as the first Somali state legislator in the United States. She had defeated a 22-term incumbent in the DFL primary. She just needed to hang in there until election day in November to seal the deal, as she did.

That August I got a tip that Omar had married her brother at the same time she was married to the man who is the father of her children. When the information seemed to check out, I sought comment from Omar. I received this response from a local criminal defense attorney writing on her behalf:

Dear Mr. Johnson:

I have been contacted by the Ilhan Omar campaign. Their response to your email from this morning is as follows:

“There are people who do not want an East African, Muslim woman elected to office and who will follow Donald Trump’s playbook to prevent it. Ilhan Omar’s campaign sees your superfluous contentions as one more in a series of attempts to discredit her candidacy.

Ilhan Omar’s campaign will not be distracted by negative forces and will continue to focus its energy on creating positive engagement with community members to make the district and state more prosperous and equitable for everyone.”

If you have any further questions regarding this matter, please direct them to me in writing so we have a record of any further communications.


Jean Brandl

The Star Tribune took up the story the following week — Patrick Coolican’s story is posted here — but Omar declined to be interviewed. Democratic operative Ben Goldfarb spoke to the Star Tribune on Omar’s behalf: “Allegations that she married her brother and is legally married to two people are categorically ridiculous and false.” Omar’s campaign explained that she had never legally married Ahmed Hirsi (the father of her children) and flatly denied that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, her legal husband, so to speak, was her brother. (Such a marriage would be void ab initio under Minnesota law.)

Omar issued a statement that went back to the royal flush of bigotry accusations and decried the “Trump-style misogyny, racism, anti-immigration rhetoric and Islamophobic division” allegedly motivating questions about her marital status.

Coolican called me for comment. He told me that Omar had issued a statement denying that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is her brother. I asked him, “Who do they say he is?”

“They won’t tell me,” he said.

That remark has stuck with me. I thought it revealing in its own way.

I gave Coolican my comment and he quoted it. “Neither Ilhan Omar nor her campaign has offered an explanation for what is going on here. The voters of Omar’s district deserve a straight answer to a simple question. Now, they have failed to provide one either to me or to the Star Tribune.”

Although Coolican and Faiza Mahumad sought to follow up in a post-election interview, I think that comment accurately states the matter, which I then sought to summarize in “The curious case of Ilhan Omar.”

This year PJ Media’s David Steinberg has picked up the story from me and Preya Samsundar. first in “Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Perjury Evidence Blacked Out by Minnesota Media” and now in “Official School Records Support Claims That Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Married Her Brother.” Steinberg continues to nail down the proposition that Omar married her brother in 2009 for some dishonest purpose (not necessarily immigration fraud).

Steinberg asked Omar for comment in advance of each of his two stories. She declined to respond on either occasion.

Last night on Twitter, however, Omar responded indirectly in her accustomed fashion. There seems to be a pattern here. Steinberg himself has responded to Omar’s tweet. Both Omar’s response and Steinberg’s comment are below.

Omar is about to be elected to Congress. Omar’s imputations of bigotry sound increasingly hollow. Although she plays the victim card with the expertise of a pro, one wonders how long this can go on.