The Free Press has, for several months, run on the weekends an Associated Press feature labeled “Not Real News,” an examination of false “information” that somehow finds traction on social media. It is alarming how often canards denigrating Minnesota’s Somali community in general, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, the Democratic congresswoman from Minneapolis, in particular, are part of that feature. Last weekend, for example, one of the “Not Real News” items dissected the false claim that a pair of violent robberies in the neighborhood of the Twins stadium was the work of Somali gangs. The robberies were real, but Minneapolis police say there is no reason to connect the crimes to Somalis.
Earlier in the week, we published a story, labeled by AP as “Not Real News,” about President Donald Trump retweeting a false claim that a video of Omar dancing was in celebration of the 9/11 terror attack anniversary. The video came from a Congressional Black Caucus social event days before the anniversary. Trump, as he so often has, embraced and spread the lie while disclaiming responsibility for it.
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Another “Not Real News” item a few weeks ago reported on a photo that was supposedly Omar getting weapons training in Somalia. The photo was actually made years before Omar was born. We fully recognize that one need not be a racist or a habitual liar to disagree with Omar’s policy positions. But we find it noteworthy that her opponents seem unable, or unwilling, to forgo the character smears and outright lies — even ones so easily disprovable. Facebook and Twitter have, unfortunately, turbo-charged the adage that “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” The people who fear what Omar is — an intelligent black Muslim woman who wins elections — and the community she comes from — the Somali diaspora — appear to have nothing other than lies to lean on. That’s not much of a support structure.