Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) humiliated herself, her district, and indeed the whole state of Colorado last week. Again.
This time, Boebert is making national headlines for telling racist, seemingly fabricated anecdotes about her congressional colleague, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Boebert’s comments were so vile that the editorial board of this newspaper felt compelled to apologize to Omar on behalf of the rest of Colorado, which makes me proud to be a Denver Post columnist.
In her short time in office, Boebert has racked up a long and exhausting litany of instances of ignorance, corruption, racism, and hatred toward transgender and gay people — not to mention anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-Muslim bigotry — along with her persistent efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 election and brush aside the deadly attacks of Jan. 6 by people she herself described as her “constituents.”
But the made-up story she told about Rep. Omar was a new low, even for Boebert.
Just before Thanksgiving, Boebert was caught on camera telling a crowd of supporters the following hateful tall tale:
“So, the other night on the house floor was not my first ‘jihad squad moment,’ I was getting into an elevator with one of my staffers, and I see a Capitol police office running hurriedly to the elevator. I see fret all over his face, and he’s reaching, and the door is shutting, like I can’t open it, like what’s happening? I look to my left and there she is, Ilhan Omar, and I said, “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.’”
A man in a biker jacket can be seen behind her golf clapping a pint glass. Groans and some whoops and light applause follow the “punchline,” which is that Rep. Omar might be a suicide bomber.
Boebert continues: “So we only had one floor to go and I was like ‘eh do I say it or not?’ and I looked over and said, ‘Oh look, the jihad squad decided to show up for work today.’”
It was a stem-winder. Boebert made bigotry a bit, a stand-up routine in which she breaks for applause and laughs. She knows where the beats are. It’s amazing she wasn’t selling t-shirts and CDs.
This isn’t the first time Boebert told this story — another video surfaced of a Sept. 2 fundraiser in which Boebert tells a version of this lie with the same breaks for applause and laughter from the audience. The Capitol police officer isn’t in this one, and here she claims she served the “jihad squad” slur directly to Omar and saves the backpack line for the crowd. It’s rehearsed. This was fabricated and written down and committed to memory like some kind of white supremacist open mic night routine in the back room at her failure of a restaurant during ten-cent pork slider night. Boebert concludes her routine by saying that Omar and fellow Muslim Congresswoman Rashida Talib of Michigan are “black-hearted, evil women.”
After the first video surfaced, Boebert tweeted a half-hearted apology. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he made sure that Boebert called Omar to apologize. Boebert did talk to Omar, but as she explained in a video on social media a few days later, Boebert instead doubled down on the anti-Muslim slurs when Omar asked that she make a public apology. In a so-crazy-it’s-almost-predictable moment, Boebert even demanded an apology from Omar instead. According to both Boebert and Omar, the latter eventually just hung up the phone. This led Boebert to declare herself a victim while whining about “cancel culture” and Democrats and blah, blah, blah.
For some perspective on the matter, I called Colorado state Rep. Iman Jodeh, the first Muslim ever elected to the Colorado legislature. Here’s what she said:
“Congresswoman Boebert took an oath to uphold the Constitution, the foundational document of this country. That means she has the obligation to give equal representation to everyone in her district. There are over 100,000 Muslims in Colorado. She calls herself a patriot, but by denying her constituents equal representation and disregarding her oath to the constitution, she is not practicing patriotism.”
A few weeks ago, 9News anchor Kyle Clark began publicly wrestling with how to cover creatures like Boebert, who thrive on attention and manufactured conflict: Clark argues that Colorado reporters hold Boebert to a lower standard than other politicians. Should reporters cover what she says, even if it becomes routine, in the interest of information and transparency? Or is it better to deny Boebert the limelight she obviously craves and refuse to spread her messages of hate and division?
This is a tough question for media outlets. It should be less complicated for the Colorado Republican Party, whose leadership has been dead silent on the matter, but I have a modest proposal for them. They can show support for the Constitution, religious freedom, and the rule of law — while standing up to bigotry and hatred — by supporting a primary challenge against Boebert in the 2022 election or joining the chorus of those calling for her congressional censure or removal from committees. But, of course, they won’t.
That’s because Boebert is a hero to the Colorado GOP. State Republican Party Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown worked as a staffer on Boebert’s 2020 campaign. Presumptive GOP nominee for governor Heidi Ganahl endorsed Boebert and donated heavily to her campaign. The social media feed of the Colorado GOP regularly promotes Boebert as one of their own, indicating that just as with former President Donald Trump, they’ve surrendered themselves to another hostile takeover. Boebert is the Party. The Party is Boebert.
I don’t personally struggle with the question of how to cover Boebert. The voters in her district deserve to know what she’s saying and doing on their behalf so they can hopefully make a better decision in the next election. The nonpartisan redistricting commission redrew Congressional District 3 so that Republicans will have a 9 point advantage in 2022, so the odds are still good that a Republican holds that seat regardless. If the people of Colorado’s third congressional district can’t be bothered to elect someone with a brain, perhaps they can settle for someone with a heart.
Ian Silverii is the founder of The Bighorn Company, a dad, a husband, and the former director of ProgressNow Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @iansilverii.
This article originally appeared in The Denver Post.