Ilhan Omar, Times style

New York Times congressional reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg profiles Ilhan Omar in “Glorified and Vilified, Representative-Elect Ilhan Omar Tells Critics: ‘Just Deal’” (accessible here via Outline). Omar is more or less made to order for the Times; she perfectly embodies the state of the left. She is this year’s model. She therefore receives the mostly hagiographic treatment one would expect from the Times.

A cynical reader of the Times might expect to find Keith Ellison quoted praising Omar. A cynical reader’s expectations would not be disappointed either. Stolberg also quotes a few critics of Omar.

Stolberg offers an interesting glimpse of Omar’s attitude to the United States from the time of her arrival in the United States out of a Somali refugee camp in Kenya:

[F]rom “the first day we arrived in America,” she said, she concluded that it was not the golden land that she had heard about.

“I think back to the orientations I went through a little over 20 years ago in the process of coming to this country, and in those orientations they did not have people who were homeless. There was an America that extended liberty and justice to everyone. There was an America where prosperity was guaranteed regardless of where you were born and what you looked like and who you prayed to,” she said, adding, “I wasn’t comfortable with that hypocrisy.”

There is no gratitude to the United States, no pride in her citizenship. We have been judged and found wanting. We require fundamental transformation to meet her standards.

Speaking of which, this is how Ms. Stolberg treats the issue of Omar’s possible marriage to her brother: “[A]t home in Minnesota, Ms. Omar has been dogged by claims that she briefly married her brother for immigration purposes” (my emphasis). She returns to the subject in a paragraph that links to my City Journal column “The curious case of Ilhan Omar.” She writes (emphasis mine again):

Running for office meant upending gender norms in the Somali community, where politics is typically the province of men. It also forced Ms. Omar to make public details about her complicated private life, which became fodder for conservative bloggers, who seized on her brief marriage to a British citizen. They have since divorced; earlier this year, she married her current husband, Ahmed Hirsi, the father of her three children.

Ms. Stolberg contacted me two weeks ago when she was working on this profile. I answered the questions she posed to me by email. I followed up with her this morning:

Dear Sheryl: I have read your Ilhan Omar story several times. When you treat the issue of her possible marriage to her brother (Ahmed Nur Said Elmi), you relegate it to the world of “conservative bloggers” and describe the marriage twice as “brief.” I guess that can be translated as meaning it is undeserving of further discussion. Yet Omar was married to Elmi for eight years. By what lights is that “brief”? Was Barack Obama briefly president of the United States?

If you mean that Omar and Elmi only lived together for a year or two after they were married, why don’t you say so? You know that she only got around to dissolving the marriage last year as she was preparing for bigger things.

You only describe describe Elmi as “a British citizen.” Where and when did they meet? Was he a British citizen at the time she married him?

Am I wrong in thinking that if Omar were an up and coming heroine of the conservative movement you might take a closer look at the question of who Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is and why Omar has treated the issue of her marriage to him as a public relations crisis about which she refuses to talk to the media (other than her extremely misleading comments to the City Pages reporter in 2016)?

I don’t understand your treatment of her marriage to husband number 1 either. As you know, she says that she married him “culturally” in 2002. You note that she has three children with him. You don’t note that she has lived with him since 2002 or that she has held him out at all times as her husband, although you do note that she got around to marrying him legally this year — again, as she was preparing for bigger things. You only describe him as “her current husband.”

What is the story? You dispense with the story as “complicated.” Does that mean husband number 1 is also husband number 3? Does that mean the situation might require further explanation? I’m sure Times readers could figure it out with a little help from you. Why not give them a chance?

I’d appreciate anything you might be willing to offer in response to these questions.

Thank you as always for your courtesies. All best wishes for a happy 2019.

I should add that David Steinberg has doggedly advanced the story regarding Omar’s possible marriage to her brother several times over this year. My posts featuring Steinberg’s work can be accessed here. I will separately post Ms. Stolberg’s response to my email this morning when I hear back from her.

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