On Tuesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson described the journey of Minneapolis Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from child refugee to one of the first two Muslim women elected to the House of Representatives. He called it an “amazing story,” and something that could only happen in this country.
“Ilhan Omar has a lot to be grateful for,” he said. “But she isn’t grateful. Not at all.”
Omar “hates” this country “more than ever,” he said. She’s “enraged by it,” he added, using a passage from a recent piece on Omar in the Washington Post to demonstrate his point.
“In Omar’s version, America [isn’t] the bighearted country that saved her from a brutal war and a bleak refugee camp. It wasn’t a meritocracy that helped her attend college or vaulted her into Congress. Instead, it was the country that had failed to live up to its founding ideals, a place that had disappointed her and so many immigrants, refugees, and minorities like her.”
“That should worry you,” Carlson said. “And not just because Omar is now a sitting member of Congress. Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country… Maybe that’s our fault for asking too little of our immigrants. We aren’t self-confident enough to make them assimilate, so they never feel fully American. Or maybe the problem is deeper than that. Maybe we’re importing people from places whose values are simply antithetical to ours.”
So, Carlson concluded, be “grateful” for Omar, “annoying as she is.”
“She’s a living fire alarm—a warning to the rest of us that we’d better change our immigration system immediately… or else.”
Some of Carlson’s screed can be a bit difficult to parse, so let’s put aside the idea that Americans have not been pressuring immigrants—especially its Muslim immigrants—to assimilate. (The New York Times’ recent profile on St. Cloud might relieve you of that notion.) Let’s focus for a moment on what he says about how Omar sees America.
If you actually read the profile Carlson mentions, you’ll find there’s no mention of hatred there. It describes Omar’s relationship with her country as “complicated.” She arrived as a child in a land famous for its high-minded ideals, and, as she grew up, was forced to square them with its at times brutal, racist, and unjust realities.
After all, she lives in a country that elected her to Congress, but also elected Donald Trump—who famously suggested a ban on Muslims entering the United States. She has been dealing with accusations of un-American sentiment and death threats ever since.
But when you boil it down, the fact that Omar doesn’t seem to be satisfied with her country makes her like most people who run for office—or Tucker Carlson, for that matter. She wants America to change, to be better for the next generation, to come closer to living up to its impossibly lofty reputation. It is possible to love something and still be disappointed in it.
Initially, Omar laughed Carlson’s rant off on Twitter, calling him a “racist fool” who was “weeping about [her] presence in Congress.”
“No lies will stamp out my love for this country or my resolve to make our union more perfect,” she wrote.
But on Wednesday, she got a little more serious.
“Fox News is giving a nightly platform to white supremacist rhetoric. It’s dangerous,” she wrote. “Advertisers should not be underwriting hate speech.”
She’s not the only one unimpressed. A few commenters on Twitter called the segment a “new low” for Carlson, who has previously credited white men with “creating civilization” and called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys.”
The Atlantic published a piece saying Carlson, not America’s immigrants, has failed to assimilate to an American way of life.
Regardless, Omar’s not going anywhere. She tweeted on Tuesday that “they” (Carlson and others) will “just have to get used to” calling her “Congresswoman.”