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‘The Squad’ Wants CNN Analyst Fired for Calling Ilhan Omar Hamas’ PR Agent

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/CNN
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/CNN

CNN is currently facing backlash from progressives after conservative political analyst Scott Jennings referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) as a “public relations agent for Hamas,” prompting members of “The Squad” to demand the network drop Jennings and apologize for his remarks.

“Scott Jennings’ comments are disgustingly racist and Islamophobic. Comments like this, especially on national news, are extremely dangerous and fuel anti-muslim hate crimes,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) tweeted on Wednesday. “CNN should never have him on again! This hatred is unacceptable and cannot be normalized.”

CNN and Jennings did not respond to requests for comment.

A longtime GOP strategist who has been a CNN contributor since 2017, Jennings’ criticism of the Muslim-American congresswoman came moments after she sat with CNN anchor Abby Phillip for a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday night. Omar’s appearance on the network came the same evening that President Joe Biden secured the Democratic presidential nomination.

During the interview, Omar expressed her support for Biden in the 2024 race despite her reservations about his policies in regard to Israel’s handling of the increasingly bloody war in Gaza. At the same time, though, she criticized White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and suggested he was lying about the ceasefire negotiations between Hamas and Israel.

Responding to Sullivan saying that the holdup in a ceasefire is Hamas’ refusal to release its remaining hostages, Omar said that the Biden official was “not showing the full picture” while stating Israel was at fault for the talks stalling.

“There was a current AP reporting that said negotiators from Hamas arrived in Egypt to negotiate for a ceasefire and Israel decided not to send anyone down there to negotiate,” Omar declared. “You can certainly have certain demands that you want, and we obviously want the hostages released and returned to their families… so it is important that we do everything that we can. But we can’t be dishonest to the point where we are saying that everybody is doing everything that they can to be at the table to negotiate a ceasefire that can lead to a permanent solution.”

Immediately following Phillip’s conversation with Omar, she turned to a four-person panel that had been gathered to discuss the primary election results. In addition to Jennings, the roundtable included CNN commentators S.E. Cupp and Jamal Simmons, a former communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris. CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston was also at the desk.

“I am surprised that in the year of our lord, 2024, there is a public relations agent for Hamas sitting in the United States Congress,” Jennings exclaimed. “The reason Israel is not at that meeting is because Hamas will not provide a list of the living hostages. I didn’t hear a word of concern for the hostages!”

After Jennings added that he “cannot believe what I heard out of that interview,” Simmons followed up by saying he wanted “to be clear” that “Hamas is the one that started this and Hamas has to be the one who comes to the table.” Also heaping criticism upon Omar, Cupp said the congresswoman took the opportunity to portray Hamas as “the good actor” in the negotiations.

“Look, I would not go to someone who is a supporter of the BDS movement for their advice on what Israel should do or what the U.S. should do when it comes to Israel,” Cupp continued. “She’s trafficked in antisemitic tropes that seek to strip Israel and the Jewish people of their sovereignty and their identity. I don’t trust her opinion on this issue at all and listen, there are important voices for the Palestinian people. She’s not one of them.”

While the entire CNN panel was largely critical of Omar’s remarks, Jennings was the one who came under fire the following evening after former Omar staffer and current Bernie Sanders senior adviser Jeremy Slevin shared an 11-second clip of Jennings’ “public relations agent” comments on X.

Outside of Bowman, other members of The Squad—a group of young leftist Democratic House lawmakers—took to social media to call for CNN to distance itself from Jennings and issue a public apology, spurred on by Slevin’s post.

“Blatant Islamophobia has no place in our society—let alone on primetime TV,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) tweeted. “It’s dangerous, unacceptable, and cannot be normalized.”

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) claimed “Jennings’ comments are reminiscent of the anti-Muslim bigotry we saw in the George Bush post-9/11 era,” adding that they “must not be normalized” and “CNN should denounce this hateful, dangerous, and blatant Islamophobia immediately.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), perhaps the most prominent Squad member, wondered how “on earth is this kind of blatant Islamophobia so casually accepted without pushback,” calling the former George W. Bush aide’s remarks “shocking.”

The official account for the progressive political action committee Justice Democrats also urged CNN to fire Jennings, saying the network “should be issuing an apology” for airing the “disgusting islamophobic & racist comments with no correction or condemnation.” The group further claimed that “normalization of Islamophobia like this on CNN is what leads to anti-Muslim hate crimes.”

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, meanwhile, called for the network to “condemn anti-Muslim smears made by” Jennings.

“Scott Jennings’ comments have not only reinforced a dangerous trend of Islamophobia but could also contribute directly to targeting Congresswoman Omar and the broader Muslim community in Minnesota,” Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of CAIR-MN added. “Minnesota is home to a significant Muslim population and has witnessed the highest number of mosque attacks in the nation, a distressing statistic that cannot be disconnected from the type of rhetoric aired on CNN’s platform.”

Elsewhere, a number of progressive commentators labeled Jennings’ comments “racist” while calling him a “bigot” who peddles “open anti-Muslim hate” on the air. “Remember when CNN fired Marc Lamont Hill for saying free Palestine? Meanwhile, this blatantly racist smear against a sitting member of Congress has yet to be addressed,” political analyst Omar Baddar noted. Hill was fired by CNN in 2018 after calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” while urging other countries to boycott Israel.

While Omar hasn’t publicly commented on Jennings’ remarks, she has retweeted a number of posts calling for CNN to denounce the conservative pundit and let him go.

Even before the Oct. 7 attacks, Omar had long become a divisive figure in the House of Representatives and a favorite target of conservatives, who have peddled unhinged conspiracy theories about her while wanting to “send her back” to her birth country. Former President Donald Trump’s relentless and racist attacks on her, amplified by right-wing media, have sparked death threats.

At the same time, she has faced rebukes by Democrats over accusations that she’s trafficked in antisemitic tropes and peddled anti-Jewish rhetoric. While she did immediately condemn Hamas for attacking Israel, her pro-Palesetinian stance and push for a ceasefire in Gaza have only widened the divide between her and some of her congressional colleagues, and she is currently facing a serious primary challenge for her seat.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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