Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reached out to Rep. Ilhan Omar on Tuesday to offer his support amid criticism from both Democrats and Republicans that the progressive freshman lawmaker trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes on Twitter.
Omar’s office confirmed that the congresswoman spoke with Sanders—one of the most prominent Jewish members in the Senate—but the conversation was off-record and so they could not go into further details about the contents of the discussion. A source familiar with the conversation confirmed to The Daily Beast that Sanders expressed support for Omar.
Earlier on Thursday, Jewish Insider reported that Sanders was asked about Omar’s tweets on a conference call hosted by James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute and a former member of the Democratic National Committee’s executive committee.
“I talked to Ilhan last night to give her my personal support,” Sanders was quoted as saying. “We will stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
Zogby told The Daily Beast the call was off-record when contacted about the veracity of the reporting, but the source familiar with the lawmakers’ conversation confirmed the Jewish Insider story.
Omar apologized Monday after Democratic leadership condemned a series of tweets—including one in which she wrote “It’s all about the Benjamins”—suggesting that many fellow lawmakers are beholden to the pro-Israel lobbying interests of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she said in her apology. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Some progressive allies have perceived the attacks on her as being disingenuous and have since thanked Sanders for reaching out.
“Ilhan is a vital, important new leader in Congress–and she’s been facing a slew of Islamophobic attacks,” Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn Political Action told The Daily Beast. “We’re proud to have supported her in her primary and general election campaign. We’re eager to continue supporting her strong, principled leadership on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and across our shared priorities. She apologized for her tweet, and these endless bad-faith attempts to attack and undermine the only two Muslim women in the House need to stop.”