Daily Mail versus Daily Beast

Yesterday the widely read Daily Mail did its thing on the question whether the man Ilhan Omar married in 2009 is her brother. The story by Ross Ibbetson appears under the headline “Does this photo prove Trump tormentor’s second marriage was a sham? Far-left Ilhan Omar is pictured with her first husband AND her second husband – as Trump accuses him of being her BROTHER and he posts from a beach.” As a bonus, the Daily Mail republished the pseudonymous Cockburn’s Spectator USA column “Ilhan Omar lawyer: two marriages hard to explain.” Like Cockburn, the Daily Mail compiled available documentary, photographic and social media evidence for the reader’s consideration.

The Daily Mail is a storied journalistic organ. Cockburn is a historically minded inquisitor. They both treat the story seriously and present the reader with what appears to be substantial evidence bearing on the question.

Contrast these articles with Will Sommer’s Daily Beast story “How the Ilhan Omar Marriage Smear Went From Fever Swamp to Trump.” Sommer seems to have started with the conclusion that the question whether Omar married her brother is a “smear” that crawled out of the “fever swamp” and written a story to fit.

When he gets to our part in the story, Sommer names me and Power Line. He writes that “the conservative Power Line blog became briefly famous in the 2000 election for discrediting forged documents on George W. Bush’s National Guard service.” It was of course the 2004 election, not the 2000 election, that made us briefly famous long ago, but Sommer is a man in a hurry. Then Sommer asserts: “In a post based on AbdiJohnson’s claims [on the SomaliSpot site], Johnson speculated that Omar, by then the winner of the state legislature primary, had married her own brother in an immigration scheme.” I don’t think this is either fair or accurate.

Sommer is referring here to my original August 2016 Power Line post “Ilhan Omar: Her back pages.” In the post I reported that I had asked the Omar campaign whether Ahmed Elmi was her husband and her brother and provided the response received verbatim. It was a nonresponse response from a criminal defense attorney conveying nothing but the personal insults that have become Omar’s stock in trade. Sommer not only provides no link to my post, he leaves out any mention of the nonresponse response to my straightforward question. Why?

Following the conclusion of the state campaign finance board investigation of Omar’s 2016 campaign last month, the Star Tribune sent Omar a list of questions and a request to talk to her siblings and father. Omar declined. Husband number 1 — Ahmed Hirsi — now legally married to Omar, did not reply to multiple calls, texts and e-mails. Elmi did not respond to multiple e-mails from the Star Tribune.

Omar instead had her spokesman provide this statement to the Star Tribune: “Since before she was elected to office, Ilhan has been the subject of conspiracy theories and false accusations about her personal life. Emboldened by a president who openly treats immigrants, refugees and Muslims as invaders, these attacks often stem from the presumption that Ilhan — like others who share those identities — is somehow illegitimate or not fully American. Ilhan has shared more than most public officials ever do about the details of her personal life — even when it is personally painful. Whether by colluding with right-wing outlets to go after Muslim elected officials or hounding family members, legitimate media outlets have a responsibility not to fan the flames of hate. Continuing to do so is not only demeaning to Ilhan, but to her entire family.”

Sommer overlooks the Star Tribune’s participation in the “smear” campaign along with Omar’s regurgitation of her stock nonresponse and imputation of bigotry to the paper that has treated her almost entirely like a hometown hero. Why?

Perhaps because it might belie the thesis that we are mired in the “fever swamp.”

When Sommer arrives at a datapoint that he cannot overlook or absorb into his “fever swamp” thesis, Sommer writes: “In 2012, Omar was reunited with Hirsi and had another child with him, but did not legally marry him. In 2014 and 2015, Omar and Hirsi filed joint tax returns together, even though she was still married to Elmi.” Sommer comments: “the political significance of this history is confusing,” and moves on. Why?

It’s all so confusing.

Sommer writes that Omar’s “critics never appear satisfied with her explanations.” He gives this classic example: “In 2018, Omar showed a reporter from the Star Tribune pictures of immigration documents from when her family entered the United States that list her siblings’ names. The list did not include anyone by Elmi’s name.”

Sommer links to the wrong Star Tribune story at “showed a reporter.” Sommer links to an article by Mayo Rao. He should have linked to this one by Stephen Montemayor. As I say, Sommer is a man in a hurry.

But Omar refused to give the Star Tribune reporter (Stephen Montemayor) copies of the “pictures.” Sommer doesn’t mention that. Why?

I asked Steve at the time by email whether Omar had even let him jot down the names of her family members reflected on the documents. He told me she did not. Why?

There is much more that could be said about Sommer’s extraordinarily shoddy article (“It is good manners in Somali culture to use the term ‘brother/sister’ even for cousins and strangers,” but how about “nieces”?). Skipping over the rest, I will leave it here this morning. I don’t purport to know what the answer to the questions around Omar marriage to Elmi are. They remains open.

However, we now have documentary evidence, social media posts, the campaign finance board investigative file, and Omar’s own comments to take into account. Sommer would prefer not to and mostly doesn’t. The Daily Mail and Spectator USA do.

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