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Bogus Image of Ilhan Omar Puts Critic in Hot Water

ND's Oley Larsen tweets photo purporting to show her at al-Qaeda camp; it's not her
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 22, 2019 1:35 PM CDT
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In this Sept. 24, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta File)
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(Newser) – Rep. Ilhan Omar has condemned a Republican state senator from North Dakota who posted a long-debunked photo on his Facebook page that purports to show the Minnesota Democrat holding a weapon at an al-Qaeda training camp. The photo was taken before Omar was even born. Omar, a naturalized US citizen who was born in Somalia and is one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, blasted state Sen. Oley Larsen's post, which also led to a call Tuesday from a top fellow Republican to apologize and relinquish a state Senate leadership position. "This is pure propaganda designed to stir up hate and violence," Omar tweeted Monday night, per the AP. "Facebook's unwillingness to crack down on hate speech and misinformation is not just threatening my life, but our democracy."

The image Larsen posted has been debunked by several sources since it appeared on social media this summer. It's an Associated Press photo taken of a female Somali army recruit at a Mogadishu military training campus in 1978; Omar was born in 1981. In the comments accompanying his post, Larsen also called Omar an "elected terrorist" and asked his followers to "share it everywhere." Facing mounting criticism, though, Larsen removed the photo Monday. And by Tuesday morning, his Facebook feed—minus the image—was full of attacks on him for posting it and accusing him of bigotry. On Tuesday, the North Dakota Senate's majority leader, Republican Rich Wardner, called on Larsen to apologize and give up his position as the state Senate's president pro tempore, a post in which he presides over sessions when the lieutenant governor is absent.

(Read more Ilhan Omar stories.)

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