Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado suggested to a crowd in September that Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, whom she called "black-hearted" and "evil," was a terrorist.
In those same remarks, she said that she felt safe around Omar because the Democrat wasn't wearing a backpack while they were in an elevator together.
It's another instance in which Boebert suggested Omar, who is Muslim and wears a hijab, was a terrorist. On Monday, the two lawmakers sent dueling statements about a phone call between the pair set up by Boebert after she apologized last week to "to anyone in the Muslim community I offended," when similar comments surfaced on social media.
The video of Boebert's anti-Muslim comments, made in New York at a September Staten Island Conservative Party dinner, were posted on Facebook that month by an attendee running for borough president.
"One of my I staffers, on his first day with me, got into an elevator in the Capitol. And in that elevator, we were joined by Ilhan Omar," Boebert told the crowd in September. "It was just us three in there and I looked over and I said, well, lookey there, it's the Jihad Squad.
"She doesn't have a backpack, she wasn't dropping it and running so we're good," Boebert adds, through laughter and applause from the crowd which briefly makes her remarks somewhat inaudible.
Additionally, at the September event, Boebert also disparaged Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota, another Muslim member of Congress.
"Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. These are just black-hearted evil women," Boebert said.
Boebert's remarks were also posted on Twitter in September by Mike DeCillis, a New York Democratic congressional candidate. They received little attention outside of a local press write up, which noted she called her "the jihad squad" and a "black-hearted evil" woman.
On Monday, Boebert and Omar spoke on the phone, according to statements from both lawmakers.
"I have reflected on my previous remarks, now as a strong Christian woman who values faith deeply I never want anything I say to offend someone's religion," Boebert said in a video posted to Instagram. Boebert said Omar asked her to publicly apologize which she would not do and instead challenged Omar to issue an apology of her own for some of the comments she has made in the past.
In her statement, Omar said Boebert refused to apologize to her.
"Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments," she said. "She instead doubled down on her rhetoric and I decided to end the unproductive call."
A spokesperson for Omar called the elevator story "a fabrication."
In her statement blasting Boebert on Monday, Omar said Boebert had "a clear pattern for Islamophobic hate speech," and cited the local press write up of the September event and comments where Boebert called Omar "a full-time propagandist for Hamas" and she said Omar was an "honorary member of Hamas" and that we have "terrorist sympathizers" in Congress.
Omar on Monday blasted Boebert's September comments in a message to CNN's KFile.
"It just gets worse," Omar told CNN. "This is unhinged, and she continues to be emboldened by her party. This is their brand and it's dangerous."
Comments from November
Similar comments surfaced last week on social media when the Twitter account PatriotTakes, a left-wing group that researches right-wing extremism and is associated with the liberal PAC MeidasTouch posted a video of Boebert at an event in Colorado on Nov. 20.
In the since-removed video posted on Facebook from an event that day, Boebert implied Omar had been mistaken for a terrorist in an elevator on Capitol Hill.
"So the other night on the House floor was not my first jihad squad moment," Boebert told a crowd. "I was getting into an elevator with one of my staffers and he and I were leaving the Capitol, we're going back to my office and we get in the elevator and I see a Capitol Police officer running hurriedly to the elevator. I see fret all over his face. And he's reaching. The door is shutting. I can't open it."
"What's happening? I look to my left and there she is, Ilhan Omar, and I said, 'Well she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine,'" Boebert continued.
Last week, Boebert apologized to any offended in the Muslim community.
"I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep Omar," Boebert said in a statement posted on Twitter. "I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction," she said
Omar said the "whole story" was made up and condemned Boebert for her comments.
"Fact, this buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol, this whole story is made up. Sad she thinks bigotry gets her clout," Omar tweeted on Thursday. "Anti-Muslim bigotry isn't funny & shouldn't be normalized. Congress can't be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation."
On Friday, Omar called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to take action against Boebert.
"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims," Omar said in another tweet. "Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."
Democratic leaders said Boebert should fully retract her comments, noting in a statement the congresswoman's "language and behavior are far beneath the standard of integrity, dignity and decency with which the Constitution and our constituents require that we act in the House."
McCarthy said he spoke to Boebert on Friday in the wake of her comments and encouraged her to meet with Omar.
"She has apologized for what she said and has reached out to Congresswoman Omar to meet next week," McCarthy said in a statement. "I spoke with Leader Hoyer today to help facilitate that meeting so that Congress can get back to talking to each other and working on the challenges facing the American people."
McCarthy's office did not respond to a request for comment on Boebert's September comments. Pelosi's office pointed to their weekend statement. Boebert and her staff did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022
6. North Carolina
7. New Hampshire
Interactive: 10 Senate seats most likely to flip
Analysis: Virginia election results show Dems falling behind in battle for Senate
"A lot happens in a year." It's a favorite phrase for politicos who don't like the way the winds are blowing.
A year ago, it was Republicans saying that. Democrats had just celebrated winning the White House and holding the House, albeit with a slimmer majority than anyone had expected. (Securing the narrow Senate majority would come a couple of months later.)
But last week's gubernatorial results in Virginia and New Jersey now have Democrats getting behind the mantra as they hope the national environment is more favorable to them this time next year. Republicans already had history on their side heading into 2022, and they're feeling increasingly energized by President Joe Biden's slipping approval ratings. One year out from the midterms, 58% of Americans say Biden hasn't paid enough attention to the nation's most important problems, and a majority disapprove of the way he's handling his job, according to a new CNN Poll released Tuesday.
Biden's party still had a small advantage on the generic congressional ballot among registered voters in the CNN Poll, but the five most competitive Senate seats are all in states that Biden carried by much smaller margins than he won in Virginia (10 points): Pennsylvania (1.2 points), Georgia (0.3 point), Wisconsin (0.6 point), Arizona (0.4 point) and Nevada (2.4 points).
And despite missing out on what would have been their top recruit -- when New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced on Tuesday that he would not run for the Senate -- Republicans are bullish on winning the Granite State, which Biden carried by a more comfortable 7 points last year. They're even seriously talking up Colorado, which Biden won by 13.5 points -- more than Virginia but less than New Jersey, which he carried by nearly 16 points.
Of course, the unspoken factor in all this calculating is candidates. With former President Donald Trump drawing Republicans in Senate primaries to the right, there likely won't be a bunch of Glenn Youngkin-like candidates on the ballot next November. Virginia's Republican governor-elect charted a course to winning back the suburbs without alienating Trump's base that could very well work for some candidates in 2022 -- but that's only if they become the nominees. Youngkin was nominated at a party convention that doesn't look much like the Trump loyalty contests that are today's GOP primaries. And beyond perpetuating unfounded claims about election fraud, some of the former President's chosen candidates are facing serious scrutiny over their personal lives.
That's one reason why Pennsylvania -- where one of those candidates is running -- remains the seat most likely to flip partisan control, as it has been all year. GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring, giving Democrats their best pickup opportunity. The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip are based on CNN's reporting and fundraising data, as well as historical data about how states and candidates have performed. As the cycle heats up, more polling and advertising spending data will become factors.
While Republicans grapple with what their future looks like with Trump out of the White House but still very much engaged in politics, some Democrats have been raising huge sums of money as they fight to hold the Senate. That's especially true for the newest incumbents -- Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Mark Kelly of Arizona, who are running for full six-year terms next fall. Two incumbents first elected in 2016 -- Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto -- have raised comparatively less money but could be facing contests just as competitive next fall.
After Pennsylvania, the next three seats on the list -- Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona -- remain unchanged. But things have shifted in the middle of the pack, with Nevada sliding above North Carolina and, now that Sununu is not running, above New Hampshire too.
Despite Americans' concerns about the economy, the administration did get a double dose of good news at the end of last week, with an encouraging October jobs report and House passage of the infrastructure bill. Democrats are optimistic about passing the President's broader social safety net and climate bill in the coming weeks, too, but it'll be up to them and the President to sell it -- especially if the benefits of the two plans won't be fully tangible before November 2022. There's the risk of those measures being overshadowed by headlines like this week's about surging prices.
That there's still a year to go "might be the only sliver of good news for Democrats," Nathan Gonzales wrote in Inside Elections about the aftermath of Virginia and New Jersey. Indeed, as one Democratic strategist noted, the pandemic wasn't even on anyone's radar at this point in the 2020 cycle -- so yes, a lot can change in a year. But the clock is ticking.