Image of Rep. Ilhan Omar against a background of the Capitol building

Gage Skidmore / Media Matters 

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Right-wing media use mistranslation of Ilhan Omar’s speech to push for her deportation and expulsion from Congress

Update (2/1/24): This piece has been updated with additional context and information.

Right-wing media have taken a couple of blatant mistranslations of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) recent speech about the Republic of Somaliland to claim Omar is not loyal to the U.S. and should be removed from Congress and deported. 

Omar said that one of the mistranslations was “completely off” and posted by “propagandists,” and the other mistranslation circulating online is satirical and was pushed by a right-wing troll account. Some right-wing figures picked it up in earnest to attack Omar, a frequent target of such smears.

  • Two mistranslated clips have gone viral of a recent speech by Ilhan Omar, who has long been a target of right-wing media attacks

    • Omar recently gave a speech in Somali to constituents at a hotel in Minneapolis to address concerns about the Republic of Somaliland giving coastline access to Ethiopia. Somalia and Ethiopia have long-standing diplomatic tensions, and the self-proclaimed but unrecognized Republic of Somaliland’s agreement to grant land-locked Ethiopia access is controversial. Somalia claims that Somiland is part of its territory and that forming an agreement with Ethiopia is an act of aggression. [BBC, 1/19/24; Star Tribune, 1/31/24]
    • According to a translation of her speech posted by a Somaliland official, Omar stated that the United States government “will only do what Somalians in the US tell them to do” and that Somali people “are Somalians first, Muslims second.” Right-wing media have also claimed that Omar stated “Somalia first,” which was not part of the original mistranslation, but may stem from a parody video made by right-wing troll account Still Boneless. [Twitter/X, 1/28/24, 1/29/24]
    • Omar has said that the translation of her speech was “not only slanted but completely off.” She also wrote, “Somalis in Somalia and in the diaspora are united in that effort [of protecting Somalia] and I stand in solidarity with them. No amount of harassment and lies will ever change that.” [Twitter/X, 1/28/24,]
    • The Spectator spoke to a Somalia analyst and a Somali journalist who verified that the viral clip was mistranslated and stated that the speech was distorted to push a political agenda. One of the translations, provided by Abdirashid Hashi, does not include the inflammatory statements being promoted by the right. A Somali-speaking reporter from Minnesota’s largest newspaper, the Star Tribune, also reviewed the speech and found that it matched Hashi’s translation. According to Faisal Ali, a Somali journalist, Omar did not say that she threatened to “invade Somalia’s neighbors.” [The Spectator, 1/30/24; Star Tribune, 1/31/24; Twitter, 1/29/24]
    • The Minnesota Reformer further confirmed on February 1 that Omar’s words were mistranslated in the viral clip after obtaining two independent translations, one from a federally certified court interpreter. Omar also stated in an email to the publication that the attacks on her are “disingenuous attempts to malign my character and question my loyalty to my home, America.” [The Minnesota Reformer, 2/1/24]
    • Right-wing media have previously attacked Omar as “America-hating” and an “an active threat to the United States.” She was also ousted from the House Foreign Affairs Committee by her GOP colleagues last year after right-wing media called for her to be punished. [Media Matters, 12/20/23; 10/13/23; 2/2/23]
    • On February 1, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) announced on X that she is introducing a resolution to censure Omar. In her announcement, Greene falsely claimed that Omar admitted that she was “working as a foreign agent for a foreign country,” based on mistranslations of Omar’s speech. Greene also wrote: “I urge my colleagues to vote to Censure, but I wish I had the votes to expel and deport her.” [Twitter/X, 2/1/24]
  • Right-wing media figures are claiming Omar is loyal to Somalia and not the U.S.

    • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh posted that Omar spoke with “pride” for Somalia, which he asserted is a “failed state” that “contributes nothing of significance to the world besides piracy and terrorism.” Walsh questioned why Americans elect representatives who “can’t muster the same affinity for our country that Somalian refugees have for the country they fled from.” [Twitter/X, 1/29/24]
    • On X, right-wing influencer End Wokeness claimed that Omar “pledged allegiance to Somalia.” The account also echoed a conspiracy theory that a proposed modification of the Minnesota state flag looks similar to the flag of Somalia. [Twitter/X, 1/29/24; Media Matters, 12/20/23]
    • Neo-nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec shared a clip mistranslating Omar as saying “Somalia First, yes! Down with America.” The satirically mistranslated clip also claims that Omar shouted “ Swiftie Jihad!” and said she wants Travis Kelce brought to her in Minneapolis. [Twitter/X, 1/29/24]
    • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk posted that he would say Omar has “dual loyalty, but what’s the loyalty she has besides Somalia?” [Twitter/X, 1/29/24]
    • Far-right troll Laura Loomer proclaimed that it is “shameful” that Omar is able to continue her “jihadist subversion of America.” Loomer baselessly said that Omar was a “terrorist” and a “foreign subversive jihadist in Congress.” Loomer has been banned from multiple platforms for making similar claims. [Twitter/X, 1/28/24; Media Matters, 12/8/22; CNN, 8/19/20]
    • BlazeTV host Steve Deace called Omar’s district “Little Somalia”  while claiming that she said she’s “here on behalf of Somali interests” in her speech. Deace also claimed that “we don’t have a melting pot anymore. … We just import worldviews now.” [BlazeTV, 1/29/24]
    • The National Pulse published an article titled “WATCH: Ilhan Omar Gives Treasonous ‘Somalia First’ Speech Confessing to Working for Foreign Nation in U.S. Congress.” The article claimed that Omar “was recorded telling a Somali audience they are ‘people of the same blood, people who know they are Somalians first, Muslims second, who protect each other,’ adding she is ‘here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the U.S. system.’” [The National Pulse, 1/30/24]
    • Kirk asked on his show, “Is Ilhan Omar trained by a foreign government to do the bidding of a distant far-off land?” He also claimed that “I would say she has dual loyalty, but that would require some loyalty to America, so she has one loyalty and it's not here, it's abroad.” [The Charlie Kirk Show, 1/31/24]
  • Right-wing figures are using the mistranslated speech and racist rhetoric to push for Omar’s investigation, expulsion from Congress, and deportation

    • Founder of Judicial Watch Tom Fitton posted: “DOJ, IRS, etc should be investigating Ilhan Omar.” He made the comment in response to one of his tweets from 2019, in which he said, “Expel her? There's substantial evidence that Ilhan Omar DID marry her brother and committed marriage, tax, immigration, and other crimes. Judicial Watch steps up and demands action from House Ethics Committee.” [Twitter/X, 1/30/24]
    • On Gettr, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon reposted the National Pulse article while commenting, “Deport Her.” [Gettr, 1/30/24]
    • Walsh wrote on X, “Every Republican member of congress should be calling for Ilhan Omar to be expelled from congress and deported back to where she came from.” This post was a response to End Wokeness, which wrote, “Ilhan Omar tells a crowd of Somalians that her top priority is to put Somalia first and expand its territory.” [Twitter/X, 1/29/24]
    • Daily Wire host Michael Knowles claimed on his show that Omar’s speech is the “best argument for restricting immigration that I have heard in years” and that she “should be expelled from Congress over this and probably she should be deported.” He also claimed that Omar admitted to being “only loyal to Somalia,” adding: “ And at no point does she suggest that she’s loyal to America at all. The only reason she seems to like America is in as much as she can use America to benefit Somalia.” [The Daily Wire, The Michael Knowles Show, 1/30/24]
    • YouTuber Benny Johnson posted that Omar “should be expelled from Congress and deported back to Somalia, since she loves it so much.” He also claimed that “Ilhan Omar says she will always put ‘Somalia First’. In doing so, she broke her oath of office AND she broke her oath of American citizenship.” [Twitter/X, 1/30/24]
    • Right-wing commentator Liz Wheeler posted, “Ilhan Omar says she’s Somali first, Muslim second, never says she’s American, & threatens to make the U.S. bow to Somali interests. EXPEL HER, you cowards.” She also compared Omar to expelled Rep. George Santos, stating that he “was expelled from Congress—by his own party!—because he lied on his resume.” [Twitter/X, 1/29/24]
    • Right-wing radio host Mark Levin posted on X, “How much you want to bet not a single House Democrat gives a damn Omar is a treasonous fraud.” He added: “How much you want to bet the media will defend her. How much you want to bet the word racism will be thrown around to kill any scrutiny.” [Twitter/X, 1/30/24]
    • End Wokeness posted, “Ilhan Omar didn't just break her oath of office. She broke her oath of American citizenship. She should be expelled and deported.” [Twitter/X, 1/30/24]