Just call it the “baseless smear” that can’t be debunked and won’t go away.
Ilhan Omar married her brother. Trump said that he had heard talk that she married her brother but knew “nothing about it.”
In response, the media flew into an immediate frenzy.
CNN’s Jim Acosta immediately called Trump out for spreading “disgusting lies.” The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer called the rumor a “baseless smear” in a piece published Friday.
Notice what just happened here. President Trump said that he had heard that Omar married her brother, but “knew nothing about it.”
Then immediately and without stopping to even consider any evidence, the media jumped into the fray to denounce Trump and prop up Omar. They assumed from the very beginning that the claim must be false without even considering the evidence.
They assumed from the very beginning that no evidence could possibly exist to back up the claim.
They were wrong.
First of all, no one can debunk the rumor that Omar married her brother. She can’t even prove the rumor false herself.
The closest thing to evidence against the claim presented in Sommer’s piece is a reference to a time Omar showed a Star Tribune reporter pictures on her cell phone of immigration documents with a list of members of her family. Sommer’s piece fails to mention that Omar declined to provide copies of any of the documents to the reporter or allow him to make record of the information he was briefly allowed to view.
Omar didn’t respond to requests for comment from the Daily Beast. Her congressional office currently is alerting reporters through auto-reply that it’s not responding to press inquiries, including one from the Free Beacon, into whether any other outlets have been shown documents Omar purports to be evidence against the claim she married her brother.
That one time Omar allowed a reporter to view documents on a cell phone was also the extent of substantial evidence against the claim presented in the New York Times fact-check of Omar’s marriage. (The Times also uses faulty math to indicate, based on their dates of birth, that it’s impossible for Omar and Elmi to have the same mother. It’s not.)
PolitiFact, perhaps wisely, didn’t dive into the marriage question after Trump’s Wednesday remark, but rather went to the Star Tribune to ask about its attempts to gather facts needed to reach a conclusion. The Minnesota paper’s political editor told PolitiFact his interest in the marriage controversy began because his reporters “were not getting a lot of answers” from Omar on her incorrectly filed tax returns, in which she claimed to be married to her current husband, Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi, when she in fact was not.
“My interest as an editor began with the silence she has maintained about her improper tax filings,” said editor Kevin Diaz. “She would say only that she had corrected the 2014 and 2015 tax filings and would not divulge anything about why she had filed taxes with a man she was not married to when she was separated but still married to someone else.”
After reviewing the dearth of evidence collected by those suggesting that Elmi was Omar’s brother, Diaz assigned two reporters to come to a conclusion.
“We felt as journalists, if there was smoke, it’s our job to look behind it to see if there’s fire,” Diaz said.
The paper’s biggest impediment to finding the truth was Omar, Diaz added.
“What’s really made it hard is that she’s been unwilling to address any of these questions,” Diaz wrote. “That has fueled the controversy.” ….
Second, the evidence is starting to pile up that the reason why Omar is unwilling to address the issue and why she can’t provide documentation is because the rumors are true.