Omar, Tlaib join calls for Joy Reid apology after comment comparing Trump to "violent" Muslim leader

The MSNBC host says her remarks have been taken out of context

Published September 3, 2020 4:59AM (EDT)

Joy Reid (Getty/Dave Kotinsky)
Joy Reid (Getty/Dave Kotinsky)

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Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib on Tuesday joined calls for MSNBC host Joy Reid to apologize for what some progressive critics are calling Islamophobic comments comparing President Donald Trump's encouragement of violence to "leaders in the Muslim world" who are "radicalizing people." 

Reid's comments came during a panel discussion on Monday evening's episode of "The ReidOut." She asked panel guests, who included Newsweek editor-at-large Naveed Jamali, whether there is a double standard in the media, which describes Muslims as becoming "radicalized," while eschewing such language when reporting about the president's sometimes violent supporters. 

"Leaders, let's say in the Muslim world, talk a lot of violent talk and encourage their supporters to be willing to commit violence, including their own bodies, in order to win against whoever they decide is the enemy," Reid remarked. "We in the U.S. media describe that as they are radicalizing those people."

"That's how we talk about how Muslims act," Reid continued. "When you see what Trump is doing, is that any different than from what we describe as radicalizing people?" 

Reid's comments drew condemnation and rebuke from some U.S. Muslim leaders, including at least two members of the House of Representatives. 

"Honestly, this kind of casual Islamophobia is hurtful and dangerous," tweeted Omar (D-Minn.), the first Somali-American elected to Congress. "We deserve better and an apology for the painful moment for so many Muslims around our country should be forthcoming."

"Words matter and these words feed into the harmful anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions that we continue to see in this country," Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted minutes later. 

"It is even more painful to hear it from someone I admire," wrote Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman and—along with Omar—the first Muslim woman elected to Congress. "We deserve an apology."

"Joy Reid must apologize on air tonight for spreading the false, dangerous myth that Muslims are inherently radical and violent," Madihha Ahussain, an attorney for the civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, said in a statement on Tuesday. "MSNBCalso needs to take action to ensure anti-Muslim bigotry has no place on its network."

Other prominent Muslims, both in the U.S. and abroad, also expressed their dismay at Reid's remarks, which, as some observers noted, were not her first comments to offend those of Islamic faith. In the past, Reid has written that Islam is "largely incompatible with Western notions of free speech and expression," and that "the majority of Muslims" are "desperately poor" and live in "mud huts" on "garbage- and sewage-laden streets."

"What? Muslim leaders?" asked Aymann Ismail, a staff writer at Slate. "Who are we talking about here? The millions of sheikhs, imams, and local leaders who lead the world's 50 Muslim-majority nations? The Iranian regime? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Devout Muslim soccer player Mohamed Salah, who has more followers on social media than any political leader in the region?"

"The casual way Reid flattens the entire Muslim world into one broad band of violent rhetoric might be at home on another cable news channel, but she should certainly know better," Ismail added.

On Tuesday, Reid tweeted that "there's been some thoughtful commentary but also some willful distortion of the points I tried to make," promising to discuss the matter further in her next show.

The ReidOut will next air on Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Her failure to apologize sooner drew stinging criticism from Muslim Advocates. 

"It is deeply disappointing that Joy Reid failed to even dignify the pain of American Muslims tonight," Ahussain said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the host "failed to acknowledge the harm she caused, did not apologize for stereotyping Muslims as violent radicals, and failed to address her history of anti-Muslim comments." 

Jamali responded to the controversy over Reid's remarks in Newsweek on Tuesday, asserting they were taken out of context. "I don't understand how people are rushing to judgement but not asking me," he told Newsweek. "We live in a country that is full of double standards, why is it not a fair question to ask why when it comes to extremism, we don't point out that there's a double standard between brown extremists and white extremists, in terms of how law enforcement approaches them?"  

On Twitter, Jamali said an incomplete clip of Reid's commentary is "being used by the extreme left and right to try and paint this panel discussion as 'Islamophobic.'" 

"However, nobody is asking me, the Brown guy in the panel, what I think," he added.

Reid also has come under fire in the past for homophobic comments published on her defunct blog. She has claimed that an unknown person or people "accessed and manipulated" her old blog posts and "fabricated" her offensive writing.


By Brett Wilkins

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Ilhan Omar Joy Reid Muslim Leaders Rashida Tlaib