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Culture > News

Twitter Controversy: Ilhan Omar & Benjamin

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

If you’ve been on Twitter or any news website recently, you might have heard about the controversy surrounding Ilhan Omar. She is the representative from Minnesota’s fifth district, the first Somali-American member of Congress, the first woman of color to represent Minnesota and one of the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress. She was sworn in in January this year. However, her politic views and aspirations as representative are not what is being discussed. Omar has found herself in a pickle due to the backlash of a tweet she responded to about Israel. The original tweet that provoked the representative has not been easy to find, yet her response was deemed inappropriate. She tweeted back, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

There are two sides to this controversia. On one side, politicians need to be sensitive and careful with everything they say. While I am not informed on the entire story or Omar’s relations with Israel, she should not have tweeted anything in an attempt to save her voice. Politicians have become increasingly outspoken since Trump’s usage of Twitter in his campaign. Free speech on a free social media platform is great for saving money, but it leads to problems like this one.

The problem with Omar’s comment is that it gave the impression that she viewed money given by Jewish people as the reason why politicians support Israel. Influence by Jewish money supports the stereotype that Jewish people are rich, but this is not necessarily true. It is not accurate to state that AIPAC pays politicians for their pro-Israel votes.

On the other side, how many people living outside of Minnesota knew Ilhan Omar was the second Muslim-American women elected to Congress? I did not know this and I do not live in Minnesota. Omar gained social media’s attention and will likely remain on the radar for some time. This offers her the chance to voice her agenda. On her page under the Minnesota House government website, she talks about her goals to fight climate change, her opposition against the current administration and her opposition on the wall, saying “I plan to resist the current Administration’s attempts to divide us and push destructive policies that chip away at our rights and freedoms.”

Her tweet was insensitive and for this she apologized. In her apology, mentioned that Congressmen have been taking money from groups and lobbyists to support agendas: this is true. In 2018, lobbyists for oil and gas—arguably the worst kind—spent over $124 million on political influence. Why is she criticized over a tweet while men take money as a voting bribe? Various media outlets and persons have even asked her to resign. On the other hand, her tweet could have had a different meaning. The “Benjamin” tweet could have been misread as her “following the cheese.” I am not informed about Omar’s life, other than what I could find from various interviews, but she is not in the 1% and neither are her constituents. If I had to take an educated guess, I would say a little money for her family and constituents would be accepted, as I would also gladly accept some money for student loans.

All in all, Ilhan Omar gained enough attention as a one-hit-wonder. But what is more important? The future. Now it is time for her to move forward and maturely handle her government position.


Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Picture Credit: cover, 1

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Pitt '21

Corrine is majoring in Neuroscience, minoring in Chemistry and French, and pursuing a Sustainability Certificate.
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