Several Democrat members of Congress have a long history of public support for an organization whose leader recently ignited a firestorm over controversial comments regarding Hamas’ deadly attacks on Israeli citizens.
Nihad Awad, the executive director and co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), recently said that he was “happy to see” the October 7 Hamas invasion of Israel and that the Jewish state did not have a right to self-defense because it is an “occupying power.”
“The people of Gaza only decided to break the siege — the walls of the concentration camp — on Oct. 7,” Awad said at the 16th Annual Convention for Palestine in the U.S. on Nov. 24. “And yes, I was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land and walk free into their land that they were not free to walk in.”
He continued, “And yes, the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense — have the right to defend themselves. And yes, Israel as an occupying power does not have that right to self-defense.”
Awad’s comments forced the White House to scramble and scrub CAIR as a committed partner to fight antisemitism on its website. A White House spokesperson also strongly reprimanded his comments in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“We condemn these shocking, Antisemitic statements in the strongest terms,” the White House spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “The horrific, brutal terrorist attacks committed by Hamas on October 7th were, as President Biden said, ‘abhorrent’ and represent ‘unadulterated evil.'”
Meanwhile, dozens of federal lawmakers across the U.S. have previously expressed support for CAIR, as featured on the organization’s website, and some remained silent when asked by Fox News Digital about the co-founder’s stance on the horrific attacks that left 1,200 dead and others captured.
Sen. Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., who is facing re-election in the 2024 cycle, previously applauded CAIR’s work as “advocating for a more just society” and also accepted thousands of dollars in campaign donations from former directors and chairs of the group’s Arizona chapter.
“I applaud the council’s devotion to our nation’s democratic values and your work advocating for a more just society,” Sinema said in November 2019, before she changed her party affiliation from Democrat to independent.
Federal Election Commission filings show the independent senator accepted $2,500 in contributions from the former director of CAIR’s Arizona chapter, Deedra Abboud, $250 from the chapter’s former vice-chair, Mannan Abdul Mohammed, and $100 from the chapter’s former chair over the years.
Sinema did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment regarding Awad’s statement on Israel and whether she stands by her comments praising the group.
“This organization’s inspiring service is a testimony to your success in creating a nurturing and supportive, responsive organization,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who is currently facing criminal bribery charges.
Menendez also did not respond when asked about CAIR’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war.
In 2019, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, praised the group “for empowering American Muslims nationwide in political and social activism through our country,” as written on CAIR’s website.
Brown, who is defending one of the Democrats’ most vulnerable Senate seats in 2024, condemned CAIR’s most recent comment about the conflict in the Middle East.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms these antisemitic statements — and anyone who tries to make excuses for Hamas’s murder of innocent civilians,” Brown told Fox News Digital. “I strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself and will continue to stand with the Israeli people as they fight back against Hamas’s terrorism.”
Over 100 members of Congress, including then-Senator Vice President Kamala Harris, wrote personalized thank-you notes to CAIR in 2018 to congratulate them on over two decades of work.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Mich., thanked CAIR in 2018 for “all that you do in defense of justice and civil liberties throughout our state and nation..Now more than ever, it is critical that you continue the fight for civil discourse and civic engagement.”
Baldwin, however, also told Fox News Digital that she condemns CAIR’s “blatantly antisemitic comments.”
“There are no two ways about this: Hamas’s October 7th terrorist attacks on Israel were completely horrific – innocent Israelis were slaughtered, hundreds of civilians were kidnapped, and now, countless families are grieving and afraid. I condemn these blatantly antisemitic comments in no uncertain terms, and these remarks have led to me completely losing faith in the organization and its work.”
Far-left members of “the Squad” have expressed support for the group over the years.
While running for Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., wrote in a letter that CAIR has “played an instrumental role in helping America move forward.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., previously delivered a controversial speech at a fundraiser for the group in 2019 before being named CAIR’s “American Muslim Public Servant of 2021.”
While CAIR was founded in 1994, Omar claimed in her speech that the group was “founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
The Democrat received immediate backlash for the “some people did something” comment, with RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel calling the statement a “brazen display of disrespect.”
Fox News’ Timothy Nerozzi contributed to this report.
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