Ilhan Omar Slams Newspaper's Op-Ed Board for Racist Language in Covering Communities of Color

Progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota on Friday accused the Minneapolis Star Tribune's editorial board of using "racist" language when covering communities of color.

"We can no longer be silent. The@StribOpinion regularly uses Islamophobic and racist language in their coverage of communities of color," Omar wrote on Twitter Friday. "Proud of the Minnesotans who led and signed this letter calling for systematic changes to their personnel and policies."

We can no longer be silent. The @StribOpinion regularly uses Islamophobic and racist language in their coverage of communities of color. Proud of the Minnesotans who led and signed this letter calling for systematic changes to their personnel and policies. https://t.co/1COC844N1r

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 15, 2021

In her tweet, Omar shared an open letter written to the Star Tribune. According to the letter, the newspaper in September republished a column from New York Times columnist, Bret Stephens, who criticized progressive lawmakers' opposition to $1 billion going into funding Israel's military hardware.

The paper republished the column with a picture of rockets being fired and changed the original headline by the New York Times that read: 'A Foul Play by Progressives Over Israel's Iron Dome' to a new one which read: 'Omar, 'Squad,' Launch Another Anti-Israel Strike.' The group of Minnesotans who wrote the letter argued that the headline was controversial and compared Omar's vote to "actual terror attacks."

Newsweek contacted the Star Tribune for comments but didn't hear back in time for publishing.

Rep.Omar Slams Newspaper's Board for racist language
Progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar slammed the editorial board at the Minneapolis Star Tribune for their use of "racist language" when covering communities of color. Above, Omar (D-MN) addresses thousands of demonstrators from across the country as they rally in support of a pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States on the National Mall on September 21 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"Let's be clear: equating Muslims with terrorism is something our Muslim brothers and sisters face on an almost daily basis and is the textbook example of Islamophobia. The Congresswoman is subject to routine death threats, many explicitly making this comparison," the letter stated.

Omar clarified in another Tweet that she has "great respect" for journalists including those at the Star Tribune, but she said that she will not "stand by while an (overwhelmingly white and male) editorial board continues to use divide and conquer tactics against communities of color in our city."

BTW I have great respect for journalists (including many reporters at the StarTribune). But I will not stand by while an (overwhelmingly white and male) editorial board continues to use divide and conquer tactics against communities of color in our city.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 15, 2021

The petitioners also wrote in their letter to the paper: "We do not feel it is necessary to explain why this represents a clear example of deeply seated racism and Islamophobia among the decision-makers at the paper. We do feel it is necessary to make clear that headlines like this increase threats of violence to Rep. Omar, her Muslim colleagues in Congress, and to the other women of color in elected office who are so often the targets of far-right racism, hatred, and violence."

The group of Minnesotans also slammed the paper's pattern in using certain language when covering communities of color in its op-eds, describing the coverage as "hardly representative of the city they serve."

"We write as citizens concerned with the way the newsroom's decision-making increasingly resembles the political priorities of management expressed in the opinion section. This has taken the form of biased headlines and story summaries and the choices made in which stories to cover or not cover," they said.

A number of examples of the way the paper covers issues related to communities of color were mentioned in the letter. For instance, the coverage of the debate surrounding the amendments to the Minneapolis city charter and the Minneapolis mayor race was described in the letter as "campaign advertisements."

"Our concern, rather, is with Star Tribune's pattern of silencing and smearing communities of color - overseen by a team of overwhelmingly white and male managers and editors. In fact, of the 12 members of the editorial board, only one is Black and none are Muslim," the letter read.

A number of demands were listed towards the end of the letter, calling for the paper's management to increase the diversity of its editorial board and rehire a public editor who would hold the paper accountable for its coverage — "particularly of marginalized communities."

They also urged the Star Tribune to update the current op-ed headline and the image published with it, end the use of "loaded racist or Islamophobic" language in headlines, and apologize to Omar.