Media react to claim Omar married brother: ‘Smear’

By Art Moore

Ilhan Omar (Photo courtesy Lorie Shaull, Flickr)
Ilhan Omar (Photo courtesy Lorie Shaull, Flickr)

The local daily newspaper that has provided enthusiastic coverage of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., over the past several years says the Muslim congresswoman has been uncooperative with attempts to resolve the accusation that she committed immigration fraud by marrying her brother.

And fresh evidence was published Thursday by investigative reporter David Steinberg corroborating a substantial pile of evidence he and Scott Johnson of the Powerline blog and Preya Samsundar of Alpha News have compiled since someone on a local Somali internet forum first published the claim in 2016.

But some left-leaning news outlets that wouldn’t touch the issue until President Trump commented on it Wednesday insist the claim amounts to a “smear.”

The Daily Beast headlined its story “How the Ilhan Omar Marriage Smear Went From Fever Swamp to Trump,” with a subhead that read “The curious journey of the unproven rumor that Omar married her brother to get him citizenship — from an obscure Somali diaspora forum to the president.”

Mother Jones’ headline was “Trump’s Latest Ilhan Omar Smear Shows How Unfounded Right-Wing Claims Go Mainstream,” with the subhead “The story behind the unsubstantiated rumor that went from an anonymous post to the president’s lips in just three years.”

In a “fact check” column for the New York Times, Linda Qiu asserted: “No proof has emerged substantiating these claims.”

But Minnesota Star Tribune politics editor Kevin Diaz, in an interview Thursday with PolitiFact, said his reporters have found evidence that “raises questions” about her documented marriage to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi from 2009 to 2017.

A search of public records by the paper found that Elmi and Omar, during at least one period, were using the same address as Ahmed Hirsi, the man who she says she married and divorced in her “faith tradition” prior to marrying Elmi and now is her legal husband.

“It raises questions about the nature of the relationship if she is living with both the person she’s married to and her eventual husband,” Diaz said.

“What’s really made it hard is that she’s been unwilling to address any of these questions. That has fueled the controversy,” he said.

Powerline’s John Hinderaker, refuting the Times’ fact-checker’s insistence there is “no proof,” commented “liberal outlets like the Times, and until very recently the Star Tribune, have made no effort to investigate circumstances so suspicious that they would quickly have led to scandal if the Representative in question had been a Republican.”

Diaz noted his paper “quoted her at length to say that these were mere accusations, that they were unfair, and that she shouldn’t have to address them.”

“Be that as may,” he continued, “there was an undisputed instance of her filing her taxes improperly. And if you’re in Congress, you should explain that to your constituents.”

Diaz was referring to a Minnesota state agency’s finding last month that Omar filed joint tax returns with Hirsi in 2014 and 2015 even though she was legally married to Elmi and not Hirsi at the time.

The editor said his journalistic interest in the story “began with the silence she has maintained about her improper tax filings.”

“She would say only that she had corrected the 2014 and 2015 tax filings and would not divulge anything about why she had filed taxes with a man she was not married to when she was separated but still married to someone else,” he told Politifact. “It was a natural question: Who is Elmi and how does he fit into her life? We were not getting a lot of answers.”

Diaz said the paper also asked her to make her father available.

“We’ve tried to reach Elmi. We’ve tried to reach her sisters. Her family could put this (the question of Elmi’s relationship to Omar) to rest easily,” the editor said.

“No one will talk to us. I wish we could send a reporter to Mogadishu (Somalia) but we don’t have the bandwidth, he said.

Trump was asked by a reporter for the conservative One America News Network on Wednesday about the claim.

“There’s a lot of talk about the fact that she was married to her brother. I know nothing about it,” Trump said. “I don’t know, but I’m sure that somebody would be looking at that.”

‘Spree of illegal misconduct’

The investigative reporter Steinberg cites multiple sources within the Minneapolis Somali community who claim the congresswoman entered the United States in 1995 as a fraudulent member of the Omar family.

That claim is corroborated by records, and he presents evidence the congresswoman’s family name actually is Elmi and she took on the name Omar to emigrate to the United States.

Steinberg, who was New York City Editor at PJ Media from 2009-2019, also presents compelling evidence that Omar lied under oath when she claimed in an application for divorce in 2017 that she had been abandoned by Elmi and had not known his whereabouts since 2011.

Numerous social media posts indicate not only that they were together during that time but that Elmi is the uncle of Omar’s children.

Steinberg writes that there is now “probable cause to investigate Omar for eight instances of perjury, immigration fraud, marriage fraud, up to eight years of state and federal tax fraud, two years of federal student loan fraud, and even bigamy.”

“To be clear: The facts describe perhaps the most extensive spree of illegal misconduct committed by a House member in American history.”


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