Ilhan Omar Defends 'Freedom Convoy' Donors After GiveSendGo Leak

Rep. llhan Omar has defended donors to the so-called Freedom Convoy truckers' protest in Canada after their names were revealed in a data leak from fundraising site GiveSendGo.

Omar, a Democrat who represents Minnesota's 5th congressional district, posted on Twitter on Wednesday suggesting that media coverage of small donors could lead to them being "harassed."

Protesters opposed to a vaccine mandate have been occupying the center of Ottawa for almost three weeks, despite police and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warning them to leave.

Omar linked to a tweet from Alison Mah, an editor at The Ottawa Citizen, who had shared an article about a woman whose name had appeared in a leaked list of donors.

The woman is a cafe owner who had to close her business on Tuesday after receiving threats because she had donated $250 to the Freedom Convoy via GiveSendGo.

Omar tweeted: "I fail to see why any journalist felt the need to report on a shop owner making such a insignificant donation rather than to get them harassed.

"It's unconscionable and journalists need to do better."

Omar later sent a pair of tweets defending her original comments and offering further criticism of media coverage, writing: "I wish journalists wrote the articles they think they are writing."

She added: "Sorry to say it, but your stories aren't always balanced and often have a clear political bias. Calling it out isn't harassment or journalist bashing. Everyone has a right to critique your story and it's merits."

Omar said she had "fully read the article multiple times."

"I still don't believe there was merit to the story as reported other than further harassment," she wrote. "You all are entitled to your opinions, but my opinion remains the same. These kinds of stories ruin people's lives and are uncalled for."

At the time of writing, Mah's Twitter account is set to private.

Nicole MacAdam, editor-in-chief of The Ottawa Citizen, told Newsweek in a statement on Thursday that the information about the local business owner was contained in a tweet that did not originate from anyone on their staff. Mah did not write the article that was subject to Omar's criticism.

"To be clear, the Citizen did not reveal the personal information of the business owner. It wrote a news story based on information that was publicly available that was clearly in the public interest," MacAdam said.

"Alison Mah tweeted about her colleague's story and since then has been subjected to thousands of hateful, angry tweets and emails, as well as efforts to reveal her personal information online," MacAdam's statement went on.

"This intensified after Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's tweet last night. Ms Omar's tweet contained inaccurate information and unfairly singled Alison out for abuse," she said.

MacAdam said this was "a prime example of how journalists throughout North America are subjected to harassment and abuse, just for doing their jobs."

"Alison is a thoughtful, talented journalist who did nothing to deserve the vitriol and hate that's being hurled at her and The Citizen absolutely stands by its story," she added.

Rep. Omar's office has been contacted for comment.

Information about donors to GiveSendGo's "Freedom Convoy 2022" and "Adopt-a-Trucker" pages has been released in recent days by the website Distributed Denial of Secrets.

A list of donors to the Freedom Convoy page, published on Sunday, included names, email addresses and ZIP codes. A leak from the "Adopt a Trucker" fundraiser, released on Tuesday, contained payment details as well as contact information.

Following those leaks, some news organizations including Reuters and The Washington Post began contacting individuals whose details had been made public.

Last week, a court in Ontario granted the provincial government a restraining order against GiveSendGo to prevent the distribution of funds of convoy protesters. The crowdfunding site has said it will not comply with the order.

Trudeau took the rare step of invoking emergency powers under Canada's Emergencies Act on Monday, but said the military would not be deployed.

The protests have in effect shut down central Ottawa while two key border crossings between the U.S. and Canada had also been blocked. They have since reopened.

Update 02/17/22 10.25a.m. E.T.: This article was updated to include a statement from The Ottawa Citizen.

Ilhan Omar Attends a News Conference
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at a news conference in Washington, D.C. on September 22, 2021. Omar has criticized journalists for reporting on individuals who donated to the Canadian truckers' protest. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images