Who needs facts and truth when any half-baked narrative will do?
Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar has already faced controversy for comments that were condemned by many as anti-Semitic, but she put her foot in her mouth once again. During a self-aggrandizing story told to hundreds of high school students, the liberal lawmaker recalled a courtroom incident she witnessed five years ago.
Her anecdote about an African-American woman who was jailed for shoplifting resonated with the crowd, but there’s evidence that it was made up from whole cloth — and Omar later admitted that she wasn’t sure her own story was true.
At an appearance in front of some 400 students attending Richfield High School in Minnesota, the congresswoman recounted a story intended to put the American justice system in a bad light.
“Five years earlier, Omar told the students, she was working for a Minneapolis city councilman who asked her to report back on problems with the courts,” The Washington Post reported.
“There, she recalled encountering a ‘sweet, old … African American lady’ who had been arrested for stealing a $2 loaf of bread to feed her ‘starving 5-year-old granddaughter,’” according to the newspaper.
Omar insisted that the woman had spent the weekend in jail for shoplifting and was then fined $80, which she could not pay. “I couldn’t control my emotions,” the representative said, before saying that she yelled out a swear word during the court session to protest the verdict.
It has the makings of an inspiring story, but even The Post journalists couldn’t help but notice that it smelled fishy. If it sounds familiar, it’s because the tale matches one of history’s most famous novels.
“Omar’s story echoed the plot of ‘Les Miserables,’” The Post reported. “If true, it is also probably embellished.”
The big problem is that contrary to Omar’s dim view of the American legal system, we don’t actually throw senior citizens in jail for shoplifting.
“City officials said that police aren’t allowed to arrest people for shoplifting unless there’s a likelihood of violence or further crime. Typically, shoplifters are sentenced to attend a three-hour class,” the newspaper said.
When pressed, the congresswoman acknowledged that some of the facts in her “America-is-terrible” story might have been completely wrong.
“She might have had a prior [arrest],” Omar admitted, according to The Post. “I’m not sure. … The details might not have all matched, but that’s what I remember.”
The Democrat from Minnesota may have shrugged off that key detail — whether she witnessed a woman jailed over a loaf of bread — but it completely changes the story.
In the original, the implication is that the justice system wrongfully imprisoned a black woman. But if you add the conveniently ignored detail of the suspect being a repeat offender who may have had a long record besides shoplifting, the tone is altered.
It’s all about the narrative, you see, and factual accuracy takes a back seat to stirring up emotion. This might be easy to overlook, except Omar has been caught wildly embellishing before.
“Recently, she told a group of veterans that about 45 percent of military families rely on food stamps. She was trying to make the point that Republicans didn’t care for the troops,” The Post reported. “The actual number is less than 5 percent, according to Pentagon statistics.”
Five percent. Forty-five percent. What difference does it make?
Of course, Rep. Omar is hardly the first politician to exaggerate and fib her way into the limelight. Remember the time Hillary Clinton boasted about dodging nonexistent sniper fire, and Al Gore invented the internet?
None of this is new, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t call it out when it happens. In a world where perpetual outrage seems to have replaced reason or basic facts, it’s more important than ever to see through these charades. The country is counting on it.
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