Working on the case of Ilhan Omar over the past three years, I have been most forcibly struck by what seems like her compulsive lying and the lack of reliable information about her background. Reporters repeat and reiterate her lies as facts. She is under the impression that she proceeds with immunity from the alternative of truth or consequences that most of us live with most of the time, and she has yet to be proven wrong.
Omar lies out of habit — even when the lies serve no obvious purpose. When a friendly reporter asked her in the fall of 2016 why she hadn’t yet divorced Ahmed Nur Said Elmi (her brother, but let it pass), she replied, for example: “There are particular challenges to getting a legal divorce. One of those is getting the cooperation and presence of the other person who you are divorcing.”
Elmi had returned to London, but everything about this explanation was laughably false. Getting a default divorce couldn’t be easier, as Omar subsequently did based on false representations regarding Omar’s inability to locate Elmi for service of a petition for marital dissolution.
In her October 2016 interview, Omar could have told the friendly reporter something truthful. It’s just not her. She makes up stories as she goes along.
Omar’s compulsion to lie extends to basic political issues. We have the recent matter of her dueling press releases on the bill providing debt relief for Somalia. She claimed credit for the provision in a bill with which she had nothing to do and indeed voted against.
Last year I met with several journalists who spent time in Minneapolis on Omar’s trail. One of them pointed out the work of Yaacov Apelbaum, who has posted his background here. In August Apelbaum posted a long analysis of Omar’s strange relationship with the truth under the title “One Thousand and One Nights and Ilhan Omar’s Biographical Engineering.”
In his analysis Apelbaum distinguishes Omar speaking truthfully from Omar telling lies by means of a software based polygraph analysis. I’m impressed he could identify a truthful statement by Omar to plug into his analysis for comparative purposes. It’s all interesting, but let’s pause over Apelbaum’s introductory remarks:
Despite numerous interviews, media write-ups, and multiple biographical sources, Ilhan Abdullahi Omar AKA “Ilhan Nur Said Elmi” remains an enigma. As strange as it sounds, there is almost no verifiable information about her nor her family in the public domain. This is bordering on the fantastic considering the fact that she is a ±34 year old (she has no birth certificate) sitting congresswoman. In an era where comprehensive digital background searches can be executed with a single mouse click, Omar’s fluid and ever shifting identity and invisible past are a puzzle.
The majority of the biographical information that she disclosed has multiple non-reconcilable versions. This includes significant inconsistencies about basic facts…
Putting everything else Apelbaum has to say to one side, this is indisputably true. It should stand as a continuing reproach to the Star Tribune and the other news outlets (such as the Associated Press) that have taken a look at Omar’s personal background without noting the obvious omissions and inconsistencies.